In the past year, Butler University has suffered a series of bicycle thefts. Students, faculty and staff reported nine stolen bikes in the past three months.
The Butler University Police Department can do very little to prevent future thefts, so the responsibility falls on the bike owners.
The worst possible response to crime involves blaming the victim.
No one should try to hold the victims accountable. That goes for all crimes.
Police officers do their best to track down reported thefts, especially by checking local pawn and bike shops.
However, the officers cannot simply take any bikes that resemble the property of Butler community members without a unique identifier.
Students, faculty and staff need to work proactively to prevent more thefts, said Ben Hunter, chief of staff and executive director of public safety.
Serial numbers, for example, make it possible to track possessions sold through pawn shops.
Bike owners should keep those numbers on file.
The Butler community should not, however, prepare for a crime wave.
“The number of thefts is actually lower than usual,” detective Bruce Allee said.
“I think one stolen bike is too high,” Hunter said, “but bicycle theft usually runs in sprees.”
Typically, the culprits look for opportunities: high-quality bicycles with cheap locks and few observers.
The police cannot do much to prevent those opportunities.
But bike owners can take better precautions. Hunter said the best ideas are recording bike serial numbers and investing in steel U-locks.
The culprit is probably one group of people who is also connected to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, University of Indianapolis and Marion University, Hunter said.
They are organized and look like they belong on college campuses.
They work quickly and efficiently to break cable locks.
Realistically, the police cannot do much to prevent theft on this end.
But pawn shops must upload serial numbers of items to a database to which BUPD subscribes.
The university already offers a bicycle registry, but the system is voluntary and not well publicized.
“I’m really going to task the police force to say we need mandatory bike registration with serial numbers on campus,” Hunter said.
Obviously, this is a work in progress upon which everyone can improve.
All bike riders on campus need to be a little more cautious, invest in better quality locks and take down the identifiers for valuables.
The alternative might be even worse: trying to profile people who belong on campus.