CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — The University of Illinois Police Department recently offered an update on the ongoing trend of bike and electric scooter thefts on campus and several tips to prevent theft.
Officials said that between Aug. 1 and Oct. 12, the UIPD received 69 reports of stolen bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters – 50 conventional bikes and 19 electrical. This compares to 26 conventional bikes and 0 electric bikes/scooters stolen between the same dates in 2021.
Officials said that these increases are the result of a rise in popularity of e-bikes and e-scooters over the last few months. Officials added that the increased statistics may also be due to the fact that the UIPD is now accepting reports for theft online. As a result, university community members may be making more reports than they would be otherwise.
“Bike thefts are unfortunately common on college campuses everywhere, and ours is no exception to that,” said University Police Chief Alice Cary. “We know how important these devices are for students to get to and from their classes and work, and we want to make sure we do everything we can to protect their property and reduce these thefts, which can be a major disruption in their daily lives.”
In response to these thefts, the UIPD is using security cameras to identify suspects. These efforts have resulted in four arrests, including two people found with seven stolen e-scooters. The UIPD is also looking for another suspect in a bike theft from the Campus Instructional Facility (1405 West Springfield Avenue) and released images of him in the hopes someone can identify him.
Officers are also preparing to deploy anti-theft or “bait” bikes to help identify offenders this month.
“Our officers have done a lot of proactive work to identify offenders who are involved in multiple thefts, and their work has no doubt reduced the number of thefts already,” Cary said. “However, the biggest crime prevention tool we have is our community members, and there are a couple things they can do to help prevent theft on campus.”
Officials said the biggest thing people can do to prevent theft is properly lock their bikes and scooters. Thieves tend to target bikes and scooters secured only by a cable lock; one of the arrested individuals said this to officers. As a result, officers recommend using U-shaped metal locks.
Officials added that some e-scooters have locking points built into their design and owners should check their scooters’ manuals to determine the best way of securing their specific scooter. This often means using a U-shaped lock.
Students can also place GPS tracking devices on their scooters and bikes. While not a complete solution, officials said it does provide valuable evidence for police; GPS tracking devices have already resulted in two arrests and the recovery of eight scooters.
Students can also register their bikes with the university online. Officials said that registration and serial numbers make it more likely a bike or scooter can be identified and returned to its owner in the event it is stolen.