As reported cases of bike theft near the Santa Catalina Residence Hall continue to trouble authorities, University of California Santa Barbara Police Dept. and Housing & Residential Services are implementing new bike theft prevention measures.
H&RS approached UCPD to tackle bike theft because it has evolved into a “core concern” for campus and area residents. The campus police purchased a “bait bike” armed with a GPS device last quarter and installed it on or near campus in hopes of catching a bicycle thief. Students will also soon be able to report stolen bicycles to authorities via text message.
Bike theft has long plagued the University, and UCSB has been no stranger to the sickness — a UCPD system-wide report issued last October estimated the value of bicycles stolen from UCSB campus and residence halls at $96,000.
Deputy district attorney and Misdemeanor Unit Supervisor Gary Gemberling, said stealing a bike can have severe legal consequences.
If the value of the stolen bike is low enough, Gemberling said the crime can be dismissed by completing a 12-hour course and paying a fine. Stealing a bike valued over $400, however, can lead to a felony charge for grand theft.
“If you were to apply for a job, you could have to disclose to your employer that you’ve been convicted,” Gemberling said.
UCPD spokesman Sgt. Matt Bowman, a committee member of Associated Students B.I.K.E.S., said almost 25 percent of the bikes stolen at UCSB were taken from areas adjacent to residence halls.
“That’s pretty significant for a campus our size with as many residence halls as we have, to have a quarter of the thefts occur there, especially considering the quality- of-life impact it has on the residents,” Bowman said.
H&RS has made improvements to the Santa Catalina bike lot by resurfacing the area, installing more racks and adding a small fence around the front of the lot to discourage vandalism of bikes parked close to the sidewalk.
The farther students live from campus, the more burdensome it becomes to be the victim of bike theft, Bowman said.
“I’m sure [bikes are stolen] out of convenience — it’s not malice — but the bottom line is, it’s wrong,” Bowman said. “It comes down to this big quality- of-life issue. College students work really hard to come here to UCSB. It takes a lot of money, time and effort, and so to have potentially their primary transportation taken from them is extremely impactful.”
The campus’ Community Service Organization is working to streamline its bike registration system by this summer. The upgraded process will speed up registration and encourage more students to register their bikes, which Bowman said will hopefully improve UCPD’s chances of recovering stolen bikes.
“Our recovery rate of a stolen bicycle that is not registered is in the five to 10 percentile,” Bowman said. “But, if that bike is a registered bike with the University Police Department here at UCSB, our recovery rate is 30 percent, which is a significant improvement.”
Noticing a steadily emerging problem with illegally parked bikes on campus, UCPD increased the storage space of its bicycle impound lot last October. Bowman said illegally parked bikes are hauled away because of the obstacle they pose for students and staff — especially for those with impaired vision.