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By John Brown
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 17, 1997

Bike thieves have UA police asking for student help

If you secured your bicycle with a cable lock today, it might already have been stolen by the time you finish reading this sentence.

It takes the average thief just eight seconds to cut a cable lock and only a few moments more for him to ride off, said Sgt. Sal Celi, a detective with the University of Arizona Police Department.

University bicycle thieves can easily blend in as students, but carry backpacks filled with tools rather than books, Celi said.

A thief usually kneels down, quickly snips the cable or chain with bolt cutters and returns the tool to the backpack.

"The thief is only in jeopardy of being caught for a few seconds," Celi said, "As soon as the bolt cutters are put away, they just look like an ordinary student unlocking their bike and riding off."

Students reported 43 bicycle thefts between Aug. 17 and Sept. 2. Thirty-nine of the bikes had been secured with cable locks.

The hardest hit location on campus during the 15-day period was Arizona-Sonora Residence Hall, which had eight bikes reported stolen.

During this period, seven bikes were swiped on Fridays before 5 p.m. Most of the thefts occurred during school hours.

Celi said most thefts occur during the day because the thief has an easier time looking like a student.

In 1992, two men made their living stealing bicycles from the UA campus Monday through Friday, taking weekends and holidays off.

"They didn't take the days off because they were good, they were trying to blend in as students," Celi said.

Each man would take a bus to campus, then steal a bike and ride it to Sixth Avenue, where he could sell it.

The men would each do this twice before calling it a day, he said. Both were arrested twice.

The UA most likely has more than one thief currently targeting campus, he said.

Celi said the going rate for a $300 mountain bike on the south side is about $25.

With the ease of stealing bikes on campus, university police said they need the help of the public to catch the thieves.

"We've got 50,000 pairs of eyes on this campus everyday," said Police Chief Harry Hueston. " I believe people are seeing it."

He said people can go to any office to call 911 or use one of the many red emergency phones on campus to report a theft in progress.

However, Celi said the best way for a student to protect their bike is to get a good, quality U-lock and to always secure it to something.

Students with high-end mountain bikes should get a second bicycle for school, he said.

"There's no reason to ride a very expensive bike from class to class," he said.

Celi said it is important for students who purchase a new bike to immediately write down the serial number and register the bike with Parking and Transportation Services because it will help police if it is ever located.

"Possession is still nine-tenths of the law," he said.

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