The relentless demands of class and work can leave even the most energetic students feeling stressed and worn down. When a student becomes a victim of theft, the emotional toll can feel like a hard slap to the face, especially when the item stolen is their primary mode of transportation.
Bicycle-riding students at UTSA may have cause for concern over the safety of their bikes; many thieves see high-end student bikes as an opportunity to turn a quick profit.
Haseeb Ali, an entrepreneurship major and junior at UTSA, returned from an exam to discover his $200 bike had been stolen in broad daylight.
“My bike lock was lying broken next to the rack and my bike was gone,” Ali recalled. “I walked home; it was horrible, my bike was nowhere to be found.”
UTSA Student Tom Wilmott’s bike was stolen from outside the Recreation Center, but later found a short distance away from the Rec when the thief could not detach a lock from the bike’s wheel and frame.
“I figured the thief had tried to ride away with my bike, but ended up carrying the thing through the parking lot,” said Wilmott. “Realizing how sketch that looked, they must have dumped it.”
Some thieves are able to cut bicycle cables and chains in broad daylight using bolt cutters or a saw. “They do this in plain daylight, with people walking by. To them it looks like somebody is just messing with their lock,” said Wilmott.
The UTSAPD recommends using a U-lock, which secures the wheel to a bike rack.
UTSAPD distributes these locks for free if students register their bikes with parking services and allow the police department to engrave the bike with an owner-applied number.
Detective Sergeant Thomas Calucci, head of the UTSAPD’s criminal investigation division, reported that not only has the department recognized the problem, but they have also successfully reduced the number of bike thefts.
“A few months ago we made several on-campus arrests and about two to three in the past month.
Once we made those arrests we saw a decrease in thefts. It’s still a problem though,” reported Calucci. When asked how students can help prevent bike theft, he explained that the UTSAPD investigations team solves crimes more easily when “solvability factors” are available to the investigators. According to the detective, solvability factors are any items in a report — such as serial number or physical evidence — which assist in solving a crime.
Calucci explained that if the police cannot identify the thief using the university’s security cameras, their next move is to check local pawn shops or sites like craigslist.
However, the detective stated that “it’s difficult to prove bike ownership if the owner doesn’t know the serial number.” Even though the investigators don’t always have access to serial numbers, the department apprehends eight out of ten thieves, on average.
On how to minimize the chance of becoming a victim of bike theft, the detective offered a few pointers.
First, “If you go to parking services and register your bike there and let us engrave it with an owner-applied number, we give you a more secure lock for free.”
Second, he stressed the importance of reporting any suspicious activity to UTSAPD. “I’d rather go to (the station) and take five minutes checking out something than having to deal with someone who had their bike taken,” said the detective.
If students feel reluctant to openly report something they have seen, the UTSA silent witness page on the UTSAPD website allows students to report crime without releasing personal information.
Finally, he explained that quick communication with the police after a crime occurs is a boon to the investigative time. “The larger agencies, such as SAPD, typically don’t follow up on these kinds of bike cases, but we’re here for students and we put 110 percent into it,” said Calluci. “We’re here for you, we’re here for the community.”