Following Temple’s implementation of a bike registration program and a crackdown on thefts in the area, Campus Safety Services has reported a major drop in bike thefts in the last eight months.
Between January and August 2014, there have been 50 percent fewer bike thefts reported than in the same eight-month period last year, Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone said.
“We had a couple of folks that were really tough with us and were coming out here and thinking that they could walk around and just take whatever,” Leone said.
Leone explained that in partnership with the Philadelphia police, officers went undercover in order to catch potential thieves. Through the utilization of decoy bikes, officers watched to see if a person would steal the bike.
“When these folks came by and tried cutting the locks we were able to arrest them,” Leone said.
Leone highlighted an arrest that occurred in Spring 2014 when CSS officers encountered William Rawls. According to CSS, Rawls was commonly seen on video footage entering the subway without a bike before returning with one.
“Or he would ride an old beat up bike and then park it and steal a better bike and then ride that back,” Leone said. “He was a thorn in our side.”
Philadelphia police took Rawls into custody on an outstanding warrant for a sexual assault charge. Rawls is currently awaiting trial set to be held in April 2015. According to commonwealth court dockets, Rawls is being charged with nine more charges and has plead guilty to numerous theft charges.
“Some of these folks didn’t just pick Temple,” Leone said. “They were down in Center City stealing the bikes. They were at other universities stealing bikes. They knew that that’s where the supply was and they are opportunists.”
CSS continues to urge students to be proactive and register their bikes with Temple Police, a process now mostly available online. Bikes registered with CSS that are stolen and then recovered could be returned to the owner.
“Last spring a lot of students were frustrated because they thought it was a little cumbersome, you come in with your bike, you got to fill out all this paperwork,” Leone said.
Additionally, the first 500 students who registered their bikes received a free bike lock.
Leone said 575 bikes have been registered this year. In previous years, Leone said CSS was lucky to register 200 bikes.
Rachel Schweon, a junior speech language hearing sciences major, said she had her bike stolen recently. She said she was surprised to hear the drop in bike thefts.
“My other friend had his bike stolen the same day I did,” she said.
Schweon’s bike was not registered with CSS. She described her experience with CSS after her bike was taken as unhelpful.
“I wish I had known about the bike registration program sooner,” she said.
Jenna Lutchko, a junior therapeutic recreation major, said she also had her bike stolen and was equally surprised by the drop of reported bike thefts.
“I can’t imagine how many bikes were stolen before they implemented the program,” Lutchko said. “It’s horrible.”
Cindy Stansbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org