By Taylor Stoudt
Over the last few months, more students across campus have experienced the shock of coming back to where they left their bicycle and realizing it was gone. Sometimes the whole bicycle was taken; sometimes only parts were missing.
For many students, reporting a stolen bicycle can be impossible. While some may know the make of their bicycle and specific physical features, an official police report cannot be filed without the serial number of the bicycle.
According to Detective Ben Segaard of the Delaware Police Department (DPD), there have been seven police reports of bicycles stolen from the Ohio Wesleyan campus.
On Jan. 9, two suspects, David Craig and Ian Gray, were arrested and charged with four counts of theft.
“These two guys initially got caught for something else, but I also got them to confess to stealing the bikes,” Segaard said.
The suspects were originally arrested for more bicycle thefts, but there was only sufficient evidence to go on with four of the charges.
All four charges were for bicycles stolen from the OWU campus. Two of the bicycles were taken from the JAYwalk, one from Smith Hall and the fourth from Welch Hall. All four were never recovered, and three were sold on Craigslist.
“The suspects didn’t keep any record of who they sold the bikes to,” Segaard said. “And on top of that, none of the victims, except for one, knew the serial numbers of their bikes, and it’s very difficult to return property to its owner without a serial number because we need to have validation that the property found was the one confiscated.”
When posting advertisements for the bicycles, the suspects also used images taken from the internet rather than taking pictures of them, making it even more difficult to identify the stolen bicycles.
Other students have also had their bicycles stolen, including junior Erika Kazi. Just before final exams in the fall semester, Kazi’s bicycle was stolen from Oak Hill Avenue. While Kazi reported the incident to Public Safety (PS), the bicycle had no identification number and therefore couldn’t be reported to DPD.
“I never found the bike,” Kazi said. “I checked on Craigslist often, but it wasn’t there.”
PS Officer Christopher Mickens said he believed this year has seen more bicycle thefts than in the past.
“Compared to other years, there has been an increase in the number of bike thefts,” Mickens said. “Theft is a crime of need. Some people need transportation, money, food, and drugs, among other things.”
Mickens suggested students register their bicycles with Public Safety.
“We can easily identify the bike as your property in the event that it is recovered after being lost or stolen,” he said.
Mickens also suggested the use of bicycle locks as a way of preventing theft.
“One of the best ways to deter thieves from stealing your bike or other property is to make it difficult by securing your bike with locks that are not easily cut, such as a U-style lock,” he said. “Most locks can be defeated, but the more difficult it is to steal something, the less likely it will be that thieves will waste their time.”
Segaard suggested parking bicycles in well-lit areas and places where others may be able to identify a situation in which a bicycle is being stolen. Segaard also said knowing the bicycle’s serial number is crucial to finding a lost or stolen bike.
“Most important thing is to record their serial number so if their bike is stolen we can put it into a database,” he said. “But we can’t retrieve a bike if we don’t have the serial number.”
Bicycles can also be registered at the police station between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. There is a $2 fee and the following information must be known: bicycle’s serial number, contact information of the owner and all relevant descriptors, like make, model, color and distinct features.
“We find bikes all the time, and if we don’t have any information to match the bike with the owner we can’t return it to anybody,” Segaard said.
Unclaimed bicycles are auctioned off once a year using a cyber auction via the website propertyroom.com.
Segaard said he thinks bicycle thefts will continue.
“Bike thefts are sure to continue around the city and campus,” he said.
“They are one of the easiest things to steal because your get away method is the same as what you’re stealing. Just because these two guys were caught doesn’t diminish the threat of theft. There are plenty of guys like them who will want to make some quick cash.”
Even after the suspects were arrested, two more bicycles were reported stolen from the OWU campus.