Following a string of six bicycle thefts on campus during November, security officer Philip Hinckley apprehended a culprit just after Christmas. At about noon on Dec. 27, Hinckley was making his usual patrol when he noticed something odd.
“I go over by BJ and I see a fella bending over the bikes,” Hinckley said. “I pull up right next to him and said, ‘What are you doing?’ I saw that he had a ratchet, and I saw that the bike was being taken apart. He said, ‘Well is the campus closed?’ and I go, ‘That’s not what I asked you. What are you doing, stealing a bike?’”
The man, who was not a Whitworth student, denied being a thief and took off on his own bike, Hinckley said. Hinckley followed him in his car and called 911. When he saw that the man was getting on a bus and carrying two tires, Hinckley called the police again and told them the number and direction of the bus.
Fifteen minutes later, the man was back on campus, this time, with three patrol cars and five deputies, Hinckley said.
“He’s probably thinking we’re connected to NSA and if he tries to run there’s gonna be a drone that smokes him,” Hinckley said, laughing.
The officers and Hinckley examined the evidence by comparing the bike parts left on campus with the stolen tires. The culprit confessed, and within an hour, he was headed to jail, Hinckley said.
The man had several outstanding warrants, Security Supervisor Jacquelyn McCord said. Since the arrest, there has been one reported bike theft.
“Because of the parts he had on him when he was caught, he had been to Whitworth more than once,” McCord said.
McCord recommends that students lock bikes, even if they won’t be left alone for long, as all but one of the bike thefts in November were unlocked. Cheap chains and cable locks can be easily broken, but U-locks are much more secure, she said.
“A lot of times when bikes are stolen, they were just thrown down because students are a little too trusting,” Hinckley said.
The number of thefts has been relatively low so far this year, and showed a decline between 2012 and 2013, McCord said. She attributes the decreased crime rate to students’ diligence in locking bikes and high-visibility officers.
“It seems like every year, students have gotten better about securing their bikes,” McCord said.
Having two clearly marked security vehicles, and being consistently visible to potential thieves helps reduce theft attempts, Hinckley said.
Security officers are able to patrol the Back 40 using the Honda Ridgeline that was traded for a no longer functioning Ford Escape, McCord said. There are three patrol bikes as well, but during the winter, the officers use vehicles.
Few students register their bikes on campus, McCord said. If they did, registration numbers would allow them to be identified and retrieved from pawn shops much more easily.
The form to register bikes online can be found by going to Pirate Port, clicking “Forms” and finding the bicycle registration form under the facilities services section. It allows students to enter their contact and bike information, and even a picture of the bike, McCord said.
Katie Shaw Staff Writer
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