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Bike thefts down from last year


By Holly Wells
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
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Of all property crimes at the UA, bike theft is one of the most rampant crimes on campus, although the number of reported stolen bikes has declined since last year.

Bike thefts make up about a third of the property crimes on campus. Last year there were 1,275 property crimes reported, and 417 of those were bike thefts, according to University of Arizona Police Department reports.

But there are signs that the number of bike thefts will be lower this year than years past, said Sgt. Eugene Mejia, UAPD spokesman.

The total number of thefts this semester for August and September is 45, compared to the 86 reported stolen from the two-month period last year, Mejia said.

It's unlikely many of the missing bikes will be found and returned to the owners, Mejia said, because stolen bikes are often taken apart and the parts are either sold separately or connected to other bikes.

When a stolen bike is found, a UAPD officer runs the serial number through the Parking and Transportation Services bike registry system to see if the owner can be tracked. If the person is not registered for the service, his or her name will not show up and police will not know the name of the owner unless a separate report was filed.

Last year, 817 bikes were registered with PTS, and so far this year more than 250 bikes have been signed up, said Charles J. Franz, the program coordinator of alternative transportation.

Before an officer can verify that a stolen bike has been found, he or she has to have a serial number for the missing bike, Mejia said.

"Often times a student loses their bike and has no idea what the serial number was," Mejia said. "Without any kind of specific identifier, we have no way to prove who the owner of the bike is."

In addition to PTS, students can also register their bike serial numbers in a free online registry system, www.stolenbicycleregistry.com, created by UA alumnus Bryan Hance.

Hance said he created the site in March after his fifth bike was stolen in a period of nine years. None of his bikes were ever returned.

"When you're in college, that's your primary mode of transportation," Hance said. "It's like a slap in the face. I'd rather someone steal my wallet than my bike."

The site is accessible to police and residents alike, which means bike shop employees, resellers, pawnshop owners and private buyers can run serial numbers of possible "hot" bikes on the site to find out if a bicycle was stolen, Hance said.

The site got its first recovered bicycle last week when a man from Seattle found his bike with the help of the site, Hance said.

He expects the number of bikes recovered to rise as more people continue to register their bikes and more police agencies and pawnshop owners check the site regularly.

So far 338 people have registered their bikes on the site, Hance said, and he adds between one and five more each day.

Hance, a self-described "computer dork" and freelance Web programmer in Cleveland, said once the number of registered stolen bikes reaches 500 he plans to add two new features to the Web site.

One will be an "SMS gateway," which will let people send text messages to the site's server via cell phone to run a bike's serial number, Hance said.

The person who sent the message will get a response back telling whether the bike is not listed, listed, not stolen, or stolen.

If the bike has been reported stolen on the site, the person will also get the contact information of the owner and any reward information.

The other feature that will be available will be a watch list. The list will be a bimonthly e-mail sent to participating bike shops, enthusiasts and resellers that contains listings and photographs of all the stolen bikes in that area, Hance said.



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