Bike thefts raise alarm on campus

Autumn Evans, News Editor

The University Police Department has announced a significant increase in bike thefts on the SUNY Buffalo State campus.

In 2013, there were a total of four bike thefts. This year, the string of thefts began in May, and so far, there have been 32 bikes stolen.

Buffalo State was not the only campus hit by an increase in bike thefts. The University at Buffalo also reported a rise in the crime. Both colleges worked together and had a crime analysis done by the Erie County Crime Analysis Center.

Using that analysis, UPD began what Chief Peter Carey called a “multi-faceted approach” to solving the problem.

First, officers began giving out notices to cyclists who either left their bikes unlocked, locked them somewhere other than the bike racks, or were using sub-standard locks.

Carey said the stolen bikes were unlocked or used cheap locks. He recommended using U-bolt locks, because the bike thieves were using bolt cutters to cut through standard chain coil locks.

The Barnes and Noble Bookstore on campus sells both types of locks. The U-bolt lock costs about $30, whereas the chain coil costs about $9.

“We also understand there’s a significant difference in price between a cable lock and a U-bolt lock,” Carey said. “But for us, we’re seeing some expensive bikes, and you’re going to put a $5 cable on a $500 bike? That’s not a good match-up.”

UPD also sent out emails to all students on campus advising them how to keep their bikes safe.

Surveillance of the bike racks also increased. Plainclothes and uniform officers began to patrol the areas more often and security cameras were placed nearby. Carey said most of the stolen bikes were either locked to remote racks or not on racks at all. He added that one or two bikes had actually been stolen from inside buildings.

And as of two weeks ago, whenever UPD officers see a bike left unlocked or unattended for long periods of time, they will take it back to Chase Hall for safekeeping until the owner claims it. Carey said there has not been much response in owners claiming their bikes. Unclaimed bikes are eventually donated to charity.

The warning comes a bit late for Tavonnce Boone, freshman criminal justice major, whose bike was stolen earlier this month. Boone said his bike, which he’d brought to campus just two days earlier, was locked up outside of Tower II when it was stolen.

“I’m pretty angry,” Boone said. “I worked hard for that money to pay for that bike, and somebody just took it.”

He reported the theft to UPD, but it hasn’t been found. Boone said he wasn’t aware of the bike thefts when he first arrived on campus.

“We understand the impact on students; bicycles aren’t cheap,” Carey said. “Loss of the bicycle is (losing) not only the money to replace it, but their mode of transportation. We want to make sure that’s as little as possible.”


Other students were aware of the thefts. Shawn Young, freshman criminal justice major, rides his bike on campus, but said he sometimes worried about locking it up there.

“During the day, I do (think it’s safe), but if I was to come on campus at night … I’d try to keep it as close to me as possible,” Young said, adding, “It makes you feel like you can’t leave your bike on campus, locked or unlocked.”

Three arrests have been made on campus since the thefts began. One was on July 30, another Sept. 13, and most recently, an arrest was made Sept. 15. None of the suspects were students or otherwise related to the campus. Two of the three suspects had bolt cutters on them when they were arrested.

Carey said the last suspect, whom he thinks was responsible for multiple thefts at both Buffalo State and UB, was arrested for the same crime 10 years ago and was banned from campus then.

Carey said that since the arrests, the rate of thefts has declined, but one or two bikes have still been stolen. He added that while student response to the increased police measures was generally positive, he hadn’t seen much change in the locks used on campus.

“I was out walking around on Tuesday, and I walked past a bike rack in between Butler Library and Cleveland Hall,” Carey said. “There were five bicycles locked up to the bike rack – out of the five, only one had a U-bolt lock.”

Carey said the warning notices are still being given out, and the increased surveillance near the bike racks will continue until the bike season ends.

“Going forward, the college has encouraged people to use alternate transportation, to use public transportation and bicycles,” Carey said. “We’re happy that people are doing that, but we also don’t want that good intention to result in someone being victimized and losing their bicycle.”