At 12:30 p.m. in late September, senior Colleen Harden locked her bike by Knox’s Heating Plant and picked up a car to go to her internship. When she returned to campus at 7:30 p.m., her bike was gone. Experiences like Harden’s are becoming more common on the Knox Campus.
Campus Safety records indicate that 21 bikes have been stolen on campus since June 15, while only five were stolen from June 15 – October 31 of last year. More than half of bike thefts since this June occurred in September.
While approximately half of these bike thefts have taken place near Hamblin Hall and the Exec apartments, thefts are not concentrated in that area alone, said Director of Campus Safety John Schlaf. Bikes have been stolen as far south as Elder Hall and as far north as Hamblin Hall.
In total, 48 percent of thefts have occurred near Hamblin and Exec, 14 percent have occurred in the Quads, 14 percent have occurred near Memorial Gym, and 24 percent have occurred in other locations throughout campus.
Even though approximately one-third of the stolen bikes have been returned to their owners, only one bike thief has been caught. In that incident, the bike robber was a juvenile and Campus Safety contacted the Galesburg Police Department (GPD) to handle the issue.
The majority of stolen bikes on campus were locked, and it appeared that the bike robbers took the bikes by disabling the locks with a tool, Schlaf said. In most cases, it appeared that thieves used a cutting device to break cable locks.
Senior Richard Thiemann, whose bike was stolen outside his off-campus apartment on Simmons St. in late September, said it looked like bolt cutters were used to break his chain lock.
Thiemann had heard about an increase in bike thefts, so he said he was not surprised when his bike was stolen. However, he said, “I had a lock, so I thought it would deter people from stealing my bike.” Theimann filled out a report with the GPD, but his bike has not been found.
Off-campus bike thefts like Thiemann’s are not an anomaly, Schlaf said.
“Bike thefts across the community have been increasing [since this summer],” he said.
According to GPD Lieutenant Randy Benson, bike thefts have been an issue in Galesburg for the 27 years he has worked for the police.
“Bike thefts are thefts of opportunity. If a bike is left unlocked on someone’s front lawn, someone will take it,” he said.
Schlaf said he is unsure about the cause of increased bike thefts. However, he speculated that some of the stolen bikes were being dismantled and sold. He cited one incident where Campus Safety found a stolen bike that had been repainted and was being used by someone in the area.
Benson said people who steal bikes often use them for a brief period of time and then desert them. The police department is left with hundreds of unclaimed bikes each year, which are auctioned off to the public in the spring, Benson added.
In order to prevent bike theft, both Benson and Schlaf encourage students to register their bikes with the GPD. This year, Campus Safety developed a partnership with the GPD, where students register bikes with Campus Safety officers on campus. This information, which includes the serial number and make of a student’s bike, is shared with the GPD. If the police find an abandoned bike that matches information in their bike registration system, they can return the bike to its proper owner. Schlaf said that approximately 100 students have registered their bikes.
Along with registering bikes, Schlaf also encourages students with bikes to use bike racks and strong locks. Schlaf also emphasized that students will have a better chance of recovering their bikes if they file a report with Campus Safety in a timely manner.