EDMONTON (CUP) — They’re fast, efficient and blend in with the throngs of other students wandering campus, and in the first two weeks of classes, bike thieves have had a heyday.
With $40,000 in bike losses reported so far this year at the University of Alberta, the problem is reaching epidemic proportions.
“The university is generally known as one of the best sources for bikes by the types of people involved in this activity,” said Sergeant Darcy Pennock, a spokesperson for Campus Security.
Thefts occur at all times of day, and virtually every area of the campus with concentrations of bikes has been hit. And with a rough average loss of $692 per bike, that translates into a significant problem for those who choose the two-pedal method of transportation.
Bike components have also become a favourite target for thieves. Front shocks, derailers, adjustable handlebars, rims and other accessories have routinely been stripped. And fancy locks aren’t always the answer.
“Thieves will generally go for the easiest targets, bikes that aren’t secured properly,” said Pennock. “But we’ve seen tools that defeat U-locks in seconds.”
But that’s not to say that taking a couple of extra minutes to fasten your bike won’t be worthwhile.
“Bike thieves are looking for opportunities,” said acting-sergeant Grace Berry. “They’re going to target something that takes the least amount of time to steal, and if you secure your bicycle properly, that alone acts as a strong deterrent.”
To solve this problem, it looks like students will be the group to make the biggest difference. Facing severe budgetary restraints, Campus Security staff numbers have remained static for 25 years despite the massive increase of students and staff, leaving fewer officers with fewer resources to patrol a highly populated community.
The idea of enclosed bike-lockups are attractive, but student union executive member Kail Ross explained that the costs of such measures are prohibitive.
He echoed Campus Security in encouraging students to be more aware of what’s happening around them.
“Students have a responsibility and obligation to report any suspicious activity,” said Ross.
Pennock has an even more immediate solution.
“To be completely safe, don’t bring expensive bikes to campus,” he said.
“There’s nothing worse than seeing students come in and tell us they’ve lost a $1,000 bike … It’s a huge hit.”