Temple Police saw five stolen vehicles in the first two months of 2016—the same number of cars stolen during 2015, according to data the department provided.
More focus, however, isn’t on stolen vehicles, but on stolen bikes, a crime that, on average, 12 times more prevalent. Thefts of both modes of transportation have seen an uptick from 2015 to 2016.
Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone said cars are being stolen because people leave them unattended and they are easy targets for thieves.
“This year especially, we got a few where people just left with their keys in and running, believe it or not,” Leone said. “One was a delivery person … [he] left his keys in his car on Cecil B. Moore [Avenue] and somebody jumped in. One guy left his car on Broad and Cecil B. and went down to the subway to pick up his friend. When he got back, someone had taken it for a ride.”
Leone said the two cases were not connected.
Something similar is happening with bikes, said Temple Police Investigations Unit Capt. Edward Woltemate, because people are too confident in how they secure their bikes.
“The owners of the bikes will secure their bikes thinking they’re safe for days and weeks at a time and then when they return to that location, the bike’s not there,” he said. “We’ve received reports where the timeframe is several days if not a week.”
Leone added the majority of bikes stolen are usually secured with a cable, which thieves can easily cut.
“The [thief] comes over and they look like they’re unlocking their bike and they take a little snip [at the thin cables] and it looks like they unlock it,” he said. “Use the U-lock, and if you’re going to use the cable, use it in conjunction with the U-lock.”
In 2013, there were 104 bike thefts, then the number plummeted to 38 total bike thefts in 2014. Thefts rose to 79 thefts in 2015 because there are “simply more bikes,” Leone said. In 2014, Temple Police started a free online bike registration program that handed out a free lock to each person who registered.
Car thefts remained at a steady total of five in 2014 and 2015 before a spike when in January and February alone, five cars were stolen in 2016.
Temple Police just added new technology to its “Bait Bike” program to help officers catch bike thieves in the act by adding a tracking device that notifies police when the bike is stolen.
Leone said before the new technology, officers dressed in plain clothes would leave a bike to bait thieves while they observed.
Woltemate said there is a “wide dynamic” of offenders, from juveniles to people feeding a drug habit that “steal for a quick dollar” to people in their 40s and 50s. There was one couple in their 60s, Leone said, that Temple Police had caught stealing bikes.
“The perception is a lot of kids steal bikes on campus,” Woltemate said. “We can’t necessarily say that’s true. It’s all different age groups, all different races.”
Julie Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChristieJules.