Bike Theft Spike Prompts Security Re-evaluation

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Bike Theft Spike Prompts Security Re-evaluation

By Emma Boczek

Bicycle theft has increased on campus this semester with five bikes stolen on October 17 alone, according to an email sent to Tam parents on October 18 by Principal Julie Synyard.

“We know we’ve got a situation,” Synyard said in an interview. “We are definitely trying to be extremely proactive about it and get it squared away, because we know how important it is for kids to get to school using their bikes.” Citing talks with the Mill Valley Police Department, Synyard said the thefts reflect a county-wide trend.

Sophomore Cameron Creath had his bike stolen from the school bike racks on October 4, after he left it at school overnight. “The next day when I came to school and remembered that I didn’t have my bike… my bike was gone,” he said. “They left the lock and my helmet.” Creath said the coil cable lock he was using on the night his bike was stolen had been cut so the bike could be removed from the racks.

Creath’s experience is consistent with Assistant Principal Kim Stiffler’s account of the problem. “The main issue is cable locks,” Stiffler said. “[The bike thieves] are coming in and using bolt cutters and cutting [the locks].”

Assistant Principal Brian Lynch described the security currently in place around the bike racks. “We have a security camera, and we do our best to have a campus staff assistant in that area throughout the day, as best as we’re able to,” he said. “We have a big campus and we have needs that come up.” According to Lynch, after the recent spike in thefts, the school has begun to re-–evaluate these standards. “We’ve been working closely with Mill Valley Police, trying to see what community organizations we can partner with, as well as assessing our current situation,” he said.

Freshman George Luebkeman’s bike was stolen on October 9 while he was attending water polo practice. “I bike to school because I prefer it. The sense of independence is nice, and I love to bike,” he said. “This has been a huge inconvenience for my whole family. My mom has to take me to school now, which throws off our entire schedule, and I can’t do anything on my own until [I] get my bike back.”

Luebkeman expressed disappointment with what he feels are “terrible security precautions” in the bike racks. “The security camera that is by the bike racks is pointing out at the courtyard,” he said, adding that he would like to see a more effective camera put in place.

“If it is supposed to be viewing the racks, it doesn’t do a good job at all,” Creath agreed. “It frustrates me that there is a camera there that doesn’t do anything, that doesn’t help out.”

Detective David Kollerer of the Mill Valley Police Department urged the school to update the camera system. “To be honest, those cameras are antiquated and need to be replaced,” he said. Kollerer recommended that the school implement modern cameras in more locations and post signage that would tell potential thieves that they were being recorded.

“We’re definitely looking at our security cameras to make sure they are having efficient use, of being able to see the entire area,” Synyard said.

After the five bike thefts on October 17, one bike has been returned to its owner and one suspect has been apprehended by the police, according to Synyard’s email. To address the thefts, Synyard has been looking into a potential grant to bring a new type of bike rack that would fit U-locks more easily than the current ones do.

“I think that would be a good start,” Kollerer said of updating the bike racks to accommodate U-locks. “The U-lock is generally going to take a lot longer to [cut] through.”

Kollerer advised students to record the serial number of their bikes. If students are able to give the police their bike’s serial number, he said, “there’s the potential for you to get your bike back.”

“It’s a super high priority. Obviously we don’t want kids’ personal property getting stolen right off of our campus, and we’re trying to figure out how to best alleviate that situation,” Synyard said. “We love that kids are riding their bikes, so we want to make sure we can provide a safe area where they can keep them.” ♦