Caution Urged in Light of Recent Bike Thefts
There have been five bike thefts reported on the Whitman campus in the past week, a large enough number to warrant a timely warning from Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland and the Whitman Security Office.
According to Walla Walla Police Public Information Officer Tim Bennett, stolen bikes often go unrecovered. To counter this, the police department advises Whitman students and community members to license their bikes with the police department and receive a unique serial number for their bike.
“Students are strongly encouraged to buy the city of Walla Walla bicycle licenses for five dollars. We can get them back to the rightful owner by tracking them,” said Bennett.
The police department will record the make, model, color and other essential information. They also place a marker on the bike that will alert the police if the bike is recovered anywhere in the country.
“With the serial number, if we discover the bike with the license on it, it’s an easy fix to get it back to the owner,” said Bennett.
Whitman College Security Officer Gabe Kiefel also stated that registering a bike with the police department is the best way to recover it if it is stolen.
“The biggest issue with bike thefts that makes it difficult to recover the stolen bike is very few people register their bikes,” said Kiefel. “The likelihood of recovering a bike that is registered is much higher than those that are stolen that have not been registered. In terms of responsibility of the general Whitman community, that’s something to do to safeguard themselves from their bike being taken.”
While there have been an unusually high number of bike thefts recently, Kiefel noted that this is a common issue for Whitman.
“Part of [the issue] is the false sense of security that I think Whitman community members have. Often people leave their bikes unlocked with the assumption that nobody will take it,” said Kiefel.
Junior Courtney Lawless had her bike stolen on Tuesday, Oct. 22. She left her bike unlocked outside of the Baker Ferguson Fitness Center for 90 minutes and found it had been stolen while she was inside.
“I left it outside of the gym,” said Lawless, “but I put it with maybe 10 other bikes, right in front of the giant glass windows with a bunch of Whitman students coming in and out. I just figure out of all the places on campus that hopefully it wouldn’t get stolen there, and of course that was dumb thinking because it got stolen maybe an hour and a half later.”
Bikes have been stolen from multiple locations around campus, including Maxey Hall, the Fitness Center, Jewett Hall and Olin Hall. At least one bike was noted to have had its lock cut for the theft.
Officer Rudy Ortega responded to a call reporting a suspicious person lurking around the Anderson bike racks around 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23. The person was identified by his baggy pants and thought to be linked with the thefts.
“[Ortega] responded immediately, but that person was gone,” said Kiefel. “And then, later on that night, he did see somebody with baggy pants, and he followed the individual off campus. He also called the Walla Walla Police Department to contact the subject, but he was not contacted.”
Kiefel reminds students to stay aware, and not be lulled into a false sense of security.
“Whitman College is subject to the same types of crimes that happen everywhere else, and for people to behave in a way that will prevent their own property from being harmed or taken,” he said.
Students interested in obtaining a bike license can go to the Walla Walla Police Department during their regular hours.