New Web site helps bike owners crack down on theft

Campus police officers have developed a bicycle registration system on their Web site intended for bike riders to input their bicycles’ information into a database to improve the chances of recovering the bike if it is stolen.

Some students are responding positively to the system.

“I haven’t personally had my bike stolen, but some people from classes have had their bikes stolen,” said Jimmy Nguyen, a criminal justice major. “With the registration system, at least people would know that police are keeping tabs on each bike, and it would be a lot harder for them to steal it. They would think twice about stealing it.”

University of Utah Police Department Detective Michael McPharlin finalized the registration system three weeks ago.

Students can access the system by going to the university police Web site and clicking on bicycle registration. From there students can get the form, which includes filling out their personal information and their bikes’ identifying information. The information is then sent to McPharlin where he can put the information into a police database with no cost to the student.

The detective said the system is helpful in recovering stolen bikes that are pawned because there is a statewide pawnshop database with all the identifying information on pawned property. Campus police’s database corresponds well with the pawnshop database.

In the last 12 months, 105 bikes have been stolen from the U campus and most of them were secured with a bike chain or cable. The chains and cables were typically cut off with a bolt cutter.

McPharlin said 60 to 70 percent of students whose bikes are stolen do not have the necessary information needed to identify the bike. As a result, he said the chance of retrieving the bike is essentially zero.

Of the 30 to 40 percent of students with information like the make, model, serial number and color of the bike, only 10 percent are recovered. But McPharlin said if more students had the necessary information, more bikes would be retrieved.

“In the cases where the bike is pawned, [the registration system] increases the chance of recovery immensely,” McPharlin said. He added that bikes that are sold on the streets or at swap meets are usually not recovered.

McPharlin said he has seen micro-trends in the location of where bikes are usually stolen. He said a few bikes are stolen from a particular location for a short period of time, including the Marriott Library and the School of Medicine.

“It’s hard to say parking at a particular location might help because the thieves wander around campus,” McPharlin said. “There seems to be a limited trend toward people who are not associated with the university coming up here and just taking advantage of the circumstances where you can look like whatever you want and blend into the university community.”

Joel Arvizo, a Benchmark Plaza resident adviser, said he has seen students in the Residence Halls have their bikes stolen.

“Some people really invest a lot of money in their bikes, so if you have a nice bike, it will be helpful to have that information with the police,” Arvizo said.

McPharlin said he knows the registration system will not fix all the problems and will not guarantee a student will get his or her bike back, but it is a step in the right direction.

“It’s going to help but I don’t know how much it’s going to help,” McPharlin said. “The biggest thing is prevention, let’s stop it from being stolen.”

The bicycle registration system is open to everybody, not just within the university community. Students with questions can contact McPharlin by e-mail on the campus police Web site.

“Since it is not required, students have the option of doing it or not doing it,” Arvizo said. “I think for the students who do it, there’s more options and avenues than just your bike is gone.”

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McPharlin’s Tips for Preventing Bicycle Theft:

U lockUse a hardened steel bike lock, also called a “U lock.” These are much harder to cut with a bolt cutter than a chain or cable. McPharlin said it would take a 4-and-a-half foot bolt cutter to cut a U lock, which usually cannot fit into a backpack.

PersonalInformationKeep track of your bicycle’s personal information, especially the serial number. If your bike is stolen and you do not have the serial number, it is unlikely that you will get it back. The bike’s make, model and color are also important.

RegisterRegister your bike on the campus police Web site. It is easy, fast and free, and the information will always be there in case you do not have it. Also, campus police is encouraging students to not only register on their system, but also places such as the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Heritage Commons.