When senior Corey Brekher returned home Saturday evening from Fall Fest, what he found – or rather, what he did not find – enraged him.
Brekher and his roommate Steve Perkins, who graduated from GW last year, saw that someone had stolen three of the four bicycles in their garage, including Brekher’s mountain bike and Perkins’ racing bike.
“I was pretty infuriated,” Brekher said. “I felt like I had just been assaulted, actually, because it wasn’t just a physical possession. They had temporarily taken away a choice for me: whether I would drive or bike.”
The theft of Brekher’s bicycle, although relatively far from campus in the Eckington neighborhood of Northeast D.C., represents a larger issue: a spike in bike thievery in the Foggy Bottom area this fall. Six bicycles were reported stolen to the University Police Department during the first week of classes, according to a UPD crime advisory.
UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said bikes are stolen for “various reasons, because bikes are easy targets, easy to sell for money (and are) often secured inadequately to prevent theft.”
She added that more bicycles are stolen in the months of April, May, September and October. In 2006 there were 94 bike thefts compared to 32 this year to date, she said.
The crime advisory e-mailed to the GW community instructed bike owners to secure their bike with at least two locks, make sure removable parts are secure, not leave a bike on a rack for long periods of time and register their bikes with UPD and the Metropolitan Police Department.
Neil Conway, owner of District Hardware-The Bike Shop, said bike theft is a problem at many colleges in D.C.
“One of the trouble spots we’ve noticed is the campus,” Conway said. “There’s a lot of bike thefts on campus, and it’s not just GW. It’s also Georgetown and other schools.”
Conway said his store has sold a lot of replacement bikes to customers who have had their bikes stolen. It is important to lock up your bike no matter how old it is, he said.
“All bikes get stolen whatever they look like. If you have one that looks like a piece of junk they will still steal the bike or steal the parts from it,” Conway said.
Speedy Thomas, the general manager of Revolution Cycles, said he agrees that registering bicycles and obtaining good locks is important.
“In D.C., registering your bike is one of the things (you can do), as well as locking it where it’s more visible. Then also use U-locks,” said Thomas, who has been managing bicycle stores in the area for more than seven years. “The cable locks that a lot of people sell are good for quick-lock times, five to ten minutes or so, but for longer times the U-lock is a much better locking system.”
Thomas said bicycle theft is probably increasing because of Web sites which allow for a quick profit – such as Craig’s List and eBay.
Brekher, whose bike was stolen Saturday, said he regrets not registering his bicycle.
“Unfortunately ours weren’t registered which we should have done, but I would recommend anyone else go to the police and register their bikes so if it is stolen there’s a greater chance of getting it back,” he said.
Bicycles are required to be registered in the District, according to D.C.’s bicycle regulations. UPD offers free UPD or $2 MPD registrations at its headquarters.
Stafford said registration is particularly important if the police recover a stolen bicycle.
“We don’t recover stolen bikes too often, but we’ll attempt to determine who the owner is and if we are unable to, we eventually donate them to charity,” Stafford said. “That underscores the importance of reporting a bike as stolen if that happens and properly registering a bike. If those things are done, it dramatically increases the chances that a recovered bike will be returned to its rightful owner.”
J.J. Silverstein, a sophomore, said his bike was stolen outside of Potomac House last spring. Unlike other students, he used the Internet to reclaim his property.
“I put out a flier on Craigslist that said ‘stolen bike,’ and someone contacted me back and said they had seen that specific bike in Georgetown,” Silverstein said.
He immediately went where the man had indicated and found his bike locked to a parking meter. While Silverstein attempted to break the lock with several friends, a man walked over and said he was the owner of the bike – he had recently bought it from a man at a Starbucks.
“So I said ‘Can you tell me who (sold you the bike)?'” Silverstein said.
To which man responded: “You know I really don’t remember, but I think it’s fair (that) you should have it back.”
Eric Roper contributed to this report.