By Ben Longnecker, Contributor
In new measures to decrease bike theft and clear out bike racks around campus, the Furman University Police Department has implemented both a “bike bait” and a bike impound system as incentives for students to register their bikes annually.
“We hate doing this. No FUPO officer likes impounding bikes,” Furman Chief of Police Tom Saccenti said. “We average around 60-65 bikes stolen in the past few years and I want to bring that number down to 40 by next year.”
With so many missing bikes, officers have a hard time identifying them based on physical description alone. For this reason, the FUPD relies on registered bikes’ serial numbers to track them down.
According to the department, stolen bikes tend to end up in pawn shops. These shops will typically store the bikes’ serial numbers, which are on file with the police through bike registration, allowing Furman police to find and return bikes to their owners before they are sold. Bike registration is free for all students and gives them an opportunity to put their serial numbers in FUPD’s bike system.
If a bike on campus is not registered, FUPD will break the bike lock, put it on a truck, chain it to the corner of the McAlister parking lot, and sell it at auction to any student during the annual bike sale. If a student realizes, though, that their bike has been confiscated, he or she can pay a $25 fine to regain ownership.
In other words, FUPD takes and sells unregistered, unclaimed bikes in order to prevent others from taking and selling the bikes.
On top of the bike registration system, FUPD implemented “bait bikes” as a way to deter theft.
“This is a way to reduce theft by having bikes that are around campus, which have geotrackers on the bike. When the bike leaves the set zone it’s located in, FUPO is notified and will go arrest that individual stealing the bike,” Saccenti said. He believes that this will be the most effective method of deterring bike theft this semester.
Security is not the only reason for taking unregistered bikes, however. According to Saccenti, “housing had a problem with the bikes being left by students,” as the bikes would fill up the racks outside of the resident buildings and be left indefinitely.
“There is nothing more that FUPO wants than to let the students have their bikes, but Housing contacted us and said specifically that they needed us to do this,” Saccenti said.
However, the Director of Housing and Residence Life, Ron Thompson, tells a different story. The housing department asked the FUPD to confiscate and examine bicycles, in addition to the work the department already completed, such as placing “no parking” signs near South Housing residence halls.
“The response I was given was that they (University Police) had already begun to confiscate unregistered bicycles, and in fact had already confiscated bicycles from North Village [before the formal request],” Thompson said.