Duren, Jester Residence Halls among worst areas of campus for bike thefts at UT-Austin

Meghan Nguyen

At least 11 bikes were stolen in the first week of this semester, according to the University of Texas Police Department. 

UTPD has two programs are designed to deter thieves and encourage people to report crimes. These include the Hungry for Justice program, where UTPD rewards anyone who reports a tip that leads to a criminal arrest with a free pizza, and the “bike bait” program, where officers leave bikes with GPS trackers on campus and easily track down thieves if the bikes are stolen. The three most common areas for theft at UT are Duren Residence Hall, Jester Residence Hall and the UT Administration Building, according to UTPD. 

After having his bike stolen from his apartment complex, James Lentz, president of the UT Campus Bike Alliance, urged all students to step in if they see something that looks like a theft in progress. 

“There are three things students can do to dramatically reduce the risk of theft: Get a U-lock and use it properly, don’t leave a bike outside overnight and don’t have an expensive bike,” civil engineering junior Lentz said in an email. “I’d like the University to consider a bicycle orientation program at the very beginning of the semester, possibly even offering freshmen a free U-lock. It could potentially save students a lot of headaches and save the University money spent following up on thefts.”

When students bring bikes to campus, they’re required to register their bike for free with Parking and Transportation Services. Registering a bike with PTS links its unique serial number to its owner so that if a bike is reported stolen, UTPD can use the serial number on file to identify the stolen bike if it is sold elsewhere.

“One thing that is really essential to recovering a stolen bike is bike registration,” UTPD Lt. Greg Stephenson said. “For one of the bicycles that we’ve recovered, it had actually had some work done through a bike shop. We were able to call that shop and get it back to the owner.”

Advertising sophomore Victoria Mercado was walking home from Gregory Gym one night last year when she witnessed a thief using a bolt cutter to steal a bike. 

“I was shaken up at first because it happened only two months into the semester,” Mercado said. “I immediately called UTPD … I noticed that (the bike) had a stretchy cable lock. I think that those are really easy to cut, especially if that’s the only type of lock you’re using.” 

Each year, nearly 90 percent of stolen bikes on campus either don’t use a U-lock or are improperly locked, according to PTS. Students should secure their frames and front wheels to a bicycle rack with the U-lock and thread the cable lock through their rear wheels and other accessories. 

“For many people, particularly students, a bicycle is their primary or only mode of transportation,” Lentz said. “Taking it from them at a critical time could mean they miss a test or even risk losing their job. There is no excuse for it.”