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Car part and bike thefts hit across campus

Adam Doyle

Contributing Writer

Recently, a spate of bicycle and car-related crimes has wreaked havoc on the student body. Students and staff members have reported thefts of their personal bikes on campus repeatedly over [the past year]. Students have also reported their bikes being cannibalized for [parts]. According to eyewitnesses, the perpetrators typically appear to be non-students.

Graphic by Jennifer Antonson

According to the Director of Campus Safety, Ross Stout, this can be a tricky situation to contend with. “Cable locks can be cut in seconds,” said Stout, after which the thief usually leaves the scene, often on the vehicle in question. Even if there are bystanders nearby, it is unlikely that they can do anything to stop the crime due to the relative speed of the entire process. Complicating this, there is little recourse to track down a stolen bike; whereas a stolen car can be recovered by the police and returned to its owner using its serial number, bicycles lack such regulations.

This issue can be helped by registering your [bike] with Campus Safety. Doing so is free and offers some hope for the bike’s return. According to Campus Safety, “If a suspicious person with a bicycle is stopped on campus, Campus Safety can quickly determine the owner of a registered bicycle.”

In addition, Campus Safety also gives out U-locks for bikes. Stout highly encouraged students with bikes on campus to come pick up locks, free of charge, from Campus Safety’s office in the University Services Building. U-locks, he explains, are harder to cut than cable locks. U-locks, Stout admits, are not unnassailable, but to break through one is “difficult, time-consuming and rare.” A would-be thief will likely be deterred by this impediment.

Stout also suggests that students ensure their bikes are secured at all times, even if they’re only being left unattended for short periods of time. Sometimes, a few seconds can be enough time for someone to run off with a bike. Stout added that a bicycle is not necessarily safe even in a residence hall: “It’s the unfortunate reality of the situation.”

Along with the deluge of bike thefts, several catalytic converters have been stolen from cars in the University parking lots. UndergraduateLily Fessendenhad the misfortune of being one such case. Following a period of not driving, she entered the school parking lot to find her car had disappeared into thin air: “When I went to drive, it wasn’t there,” she explained. After reporting it stolen, it was eventually returned to her by police after being found miles from campus - minus one catalytic converter. Stout said, “the catalytic converter [theft] issue is statewide. Nationwide.” Selling catalytic converters is a quick source of significant income for people in particularly desperate situations. “It’s a good payoff,” Stout noted. “If you steal a bike you might get 25 dollars. For a converter, it could be hundreds of dollars.” The fact that there is no reliable way to track a stolen component of a car only exacerbates the already difficult issue at hand.

Affordable, specialized saws can cut a catalytic converter from a car within two minutes. This process is discreet if done well. After that, the converter is typically on its way to a junkyard, where the precious metals contained within can fetch a small fortune, according to Stout. As of 2022, a new [law] in Oregon will attempt to ensure that only the documented owner of a car can sell its catalytic converter. The state legislature passed this as an ostensible solution to the emerging black market for catalytic converters; however, there is nothing to stop someone from simply driving the converter to a nearby state to sell it.

Campus Safety recommends that students regularly check on their vehicles to ensure that everything is where it should be.If your catalytic converter has been stolen, your car may be significantly louder than usual. There are also a variety of anti-theft devices available for sale.

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