University police and the Los Angeles Police Department have observed an unusually high number of bicycle thefts in the Westwood area in recent months. Over the past six weeks, university police received about 25 reports of bicycle thefts on or near campus, said UCPD detective Brian Washburn. Police usually receive a maximum of six or eight reports a month, he said.
“(Bike thefts) come in fits and starts,” Washburn said. “But this is the biggest spike I have ever seen.”
Bikes are relatively easy to steal and resell, which may account for the increase in bike thefts, said Chris Ragsdale, senior lead officer at the West Los Angeles Police Department. The price of some bikes can be as much as $6000, making them attractive targets, Ragsdale said.
Almost all of the last 20 bikes reported stolen were locked using a cable lock rather than a sturdier U-lock, said UCPD spokewoman Nancy Greenstein. Cable locks, which generally consist of a small cable connecting the bike to a bike rack, can be cut by a pair of bolt cutters in a matter of seconds, Washburn said.
Police believe most bikes are being stolen by people not affiliated with the campus and are looking for some quick and easy cash.
University police have successfully arrested a few of the people who stole bikes in Westwood, mostly from being notified of a possible theft while it is happening.
Many people do not know the serial number of their bike, which makes it harder to find the bikes once they are stolen, Washburn said.
“People don’t treat their bikes the way they treat their cars or even their computers,” Washburn said. “If someone tells me they lost a red Schwinn bike, without a serial number, that is really hard to find.”
UCLA has received a reputation as an easy target for bicycle thefts, partially because students do not always lock their bikes efficiently, Washburn said.
Police suggest students use U-locks, which are made of a more solid metal bar and are much harder to cut through. University police are talking to the facility managers for buildings on and near campus to increase surveillance around bike racks and scale back plants that may conceal the bikes from people walking by, Washburn said.
Police also hope to put up signs near bike racks stating that the racks are under surveillance, as a way to deter bike thefts on and around the campus, he said.