September proves to be a busy month for bike thieves, as several bicycle thefts occur UNC Asheville’s campus, all within the same week.
Mary Olivia Baer’s mountain bike was reported stolen from the Hoey Hall bike rack on Sept. 8.“I looked at the bike rack and saw that my bike was no longer there. My immediate thought was to try and remember if I locked it up somewhere else,” Baer said. “Then I realized that someone had stolen my bike.”
Bicycle larceny in Asheville reaches a five year high, according to Meredith Warfield, a communication specialist for the Asheville Police Department.
“The five year historical average was nearly nine bicycles stolen each month during the first seven months of the last five years. In 2019, the average had risen to 20 with July seeing the highest at 45,” Warfield said.
Baer said she takes preventative measures to secure her bicycle with a coded coil lock, which is rated highly on the bike lock safety scale, according to Baer.
“Since I had my bike locked up outside my dorm, I always try to remember to look and see that it is there as I walk by,” Baer said. “When I saw that my bike was missing, I felt like I lost some hope in humanity. This is because I was trusting in people to see that the bike was locked up and belonged to someone. I felt angry at whoever did this.”
Baer’s bicycle was an essential mode of transportation, an ability she’s been robbed of since the larceny.
“The bike was pretty important in my life and to me. I have a friend that lives a little off campus so I would use it to go see them as well as run quick errands on the bike instead of driving,” Baer said.
Micajah McCurry’s bike was stolen from Governors Hall, three days following the theft of Baer’s bicycle, according to the incident report.
“While walking to my car, I glanced over expecting to see my bike locked to the rack where I left it in front of Governors Hall, and it was missing. I walked over to look and my lock was left in the basket of the bike next to it,” McCurry said.
McCurry met with campus police at the crime scene to file a report on Sept. 11. “They told me it’s usually homeless people wandering up, cutting locks, and selling them to pawn shops,” McCurry said.
As a professional kayaker and team USA athlete, McCurry said the bicycle serves as a valuable tool in his training.
“Some days on the river I paddle longer distances solo. This bike was solely for riding back to my car after paddling five or more miles,” McCurry said. “Now I am either conserving energy during my paddle or hitchhiking back to my car.”
Reports of bicycle thievery continue on the evening of Sept. 11. Only one hour after the filing of McCurry’s incident report, campus police were contacted by UNCA student Ethan Jones. According to the report, his
mountain bike was stolen from the Mills Hall main bike rack.
“I was returning to my dorm from my night class at around 9:30 p.m. and I happened to glance over at where I parked it to check on it and it wasn’t there. I immediately had a sense of dread wash over
me,” Jones said. “When I got closer, I saw the bike chain that I had, which was supposed to be top of the line, had been cut and placed neatly in the corner.”
When contacting Campus Police to report the theft, Jones clarified he was not the same person who called earlier, referring to McCurry, the first victim.
“I was baffled that bike theft is such a common occurrence here,” Jones said. “The officer arrived in about five minutes. I went over the details of the whole fiasco with him. He also explained that the majority of the bike racks, including mine, do not even have cameras and there was nothing to go on other than the information I gave him.”
Bicycle theft offers an easy business for thieves, according to Kent Cranford with Motion Makers Bicycle Shop in Asheville.
“I have had bikes stolen from the store. We found one at a used sporting goods store. Others were never seen again,” Cranford said. “They try to sell them at local pawn shops, used sporting goods stores, and bike shops that are known for buying and selling used bikes. Some groups are more organized and take them out of the market to sell them.”
Campus Police Chief Eric Boyce recommends registering the bike’s serial number. “It would be ideal if the person registered the bike through our bike registration program. That way we can go in and get the serial number and the bike registration number,” Boyce said. “The officer can enter that bicycle information into the North Carolina Criminal Information Division. If another agency finds the bike, they will get what we call a hit on it, and then notify this agency that they have recovered the bike.”
According to Warfield, when filing incident reports, a review occurs to see if there are any investigative leads. Most bikes have a serial number, which can be an important tool in recovering a stolen bicycle.
“One of the best things anyone can do to help recover stolen property is to record serial numbers. Bicycles, in particular, can be painted over very easily. Without a serial number, it is nearly impossible to prove that a specific bicycle was the one stolen,” Warfield said.
Using a type of bike lock called a U-bolt proves to be more difficult for thieves to cut through, and ensures a bike’s security, according to Boyce.
“What is important is that students always secure their bike with a U-bolt lock. A U-bolt is a lock with a U, and it has a bar across it, and you need to fix that to a permanent object like a bike rack,” Boyce said. “A U-bolt lock is one of the more secure locks out there.”
Jones said it seems unlikely that his bike will be returning to him.
“There is a very low chance that I will ever see my bike again, because the turn around on bikes is extremely high, especially nice mountain bikes in Asheville,” Jones said. “I really just hope that whoever has it now likes it as much as I did.”