A student rides a bike Nov. 20, 2019, on the sidewalk of McKinley Avenue on Ball State's campus. University Police Department has seen an increase in both the number of stolen bikes and an increase in bike registrations this academic year. Grace McCormick, DN
Reports of stolen bikes increase on campus at Ball State
Junior English literature major Jevon Osborne’s bike was stolen from outside the Honors House in October 2019. Osborne said he was in class and failed to lock his bike properly.
“I have had [two] bikes stolen at Ball State,” Osborne said, “And both times, it has been because I neglected to either lock it up while in class or put it inside at night.”
Senior vocal performance major Katharine Wilhelm’s bike seat was stolen when locked up outside her house in Muncie.
“My neighbor's bike was also stolen that afternoon. They cut his cable lock and then thought my seat was better I suppose,” Wilhelm said. “It seemed so odd to me to only take the seat.”
According to University Police Department (UPD) theft records, nine on-campus stolen bikes were reported between Oct. 1 and Nov. 8, 2019.
“At the beginning of the year, we had 24 [stolen bike reports] in a month,” said UPD Corporal Travis Stephens. “It was really bad this year.”
UPD records only consist of on-campus bike thefts, so Wilhelm’s and other students’ stolen bikes off campus are not included in the total.
Later in November, there was a decrease in stolen bike reports, but Stephens said he is unsure whether that was a result of more trespassing charges or colder weather.
“It could be different factors,” he said. “Maybe the thieves aren’t out stealing the bikes because they stand out being the only person riding a bike in 3 inches of snow.”
Stephens recommends students continue to check on their bikes during the winter, and as the weather warms up, during the spring semester.
“Theft starts to pick up a bit after spring break … which could be because students don’t realize their bike has been stolen until they go out to get it months later,” he said.
Bikes are more often stolen at the outer residential areas of campus like Studebaker Hall or Anthony Apartments, Stephens said.
UPD found the same students continually stealing bikes in the fall 2019 semester, he said. After the police find someone stealing a bike, that person is arrested and charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. The suspect can also be issued trespassing charges, which are more likely when they are not affiliated with Ball State.
Stephens also oversees bike registration for UPD. He said even though there has been an increase of stolen bikes this school year, there has also been an increase in bike registration, which makes the stolen bikes easier to find. To register a bike, students living on or off campus can visit UPD’s website or the UPD station.
To prevent theft, he recommends using quality style locks, like a U-lock. In the past few years, he said, UPD has taken up initiatives to give away U-locks to students and generate publicity about bike registrations.
Stephens said Walmart and Meijer each donated U-locks to the department for the first time in 2019, which UPD gave to students.
Besides a U-lock, he said students can rent a bike locker at various locations on campus, including six residence halls and Anthony Apartments for $50 for the academic year.
“Theft is a crime of opportunity,” he said. “If a bike isn’t locked up or is locked with a weak cable lock that can easily be cut, a thief can take that opportunity to steal the bike. If the bike isn’t registered and we find the bike or suspect, we won’t have a victim.”