On March 5, the Office of Campus Safety alerted the College’s student body to an increase in bicycle thefts across campus this semester. As a result of these thefts, Campus Safety has focused attention on outdoor bicycle racks during patrols. They have also requested that the Knox County Sheriff’s Office increase its presence around Gambier.
Thus far, there is no discernible reason for this noticeable uptick in bicycle thefts. According to Director of Campus Safety Michael Sweazy, one potential explanation is the low-supply, high-demand dynamic regarding bicycles during the pandemic. However, another more likely reason is students on campus “borrowing” unlocked bicycles as they see fit. “The majority of bikes reported as stolen are taken by other students and are later recovered elsewhere on campus,” Sweazy wrote, noting that two bikes that had been reported as stolen were recovered on campus where another student had ridden them.
Bicycle theft at the College is not a new problem, but has become more frequent and persistent as of late. In an email sent to all students and employees on Dec. 1, Campus Safety reported an uptick in bicycle thefts among Village residents, with some bikes stolen directly from their garages. The number of thefts cited in the Village has only increased since then.
In addition, Sweazy explained the request for assistance from the Sheriff’s Office. “Campus Safety is not a commissioned law enforcement agency. We may detain someone until the deputies arrive, but we do not have arrest or investigative powers in order to present cases for prosecution,” he said. “Also, detectives would be able to include any thefts into any larger theft rings occurring in the area.”
President Sean Decatur acknowledged the increase in bicycle thefts during this semester, and noted that it is not just a concern for the College, but also the general area. However, Decatur said that he was unaware of the forthcoming Sheriff’s Office reinforcement. “I hadn’t heard about an increased [Sheriff’s] presence,” he said.
Students have voiced concern on social media about the increased Sheriff’s presence on campus, suggesting it could be problematic for students of color who have been profiled and accosted by members of the department in the past.
Campus Safety requests that students call them at 740-427-5555 if they notice suspicious activity around bicycles, whether they are stored or temporarily locked. High-quality locks are also available for purchase at the Bookstore.