My run-in with a possible bike thief

bikephotoI am fairly confident my bike was going to be stolen last night if I hadn’t moved it.

I was heading to the University of Arizona to take a final exam in my MBA program. I was a few minutes early and decided to park my bike on the south side of  McClelland Hall next to the Olive underpass so that I could do a little extra studying. (Check out point A in the photo.)

As I pulled up there was a man sitting at the table (B) facing toward the bike racks. Something seemed off about him and he seemed sketchy.

He sat there and watched while I locked the bike. I had a quarter inch cable that I ran through the wheels and attatched to a six inch u-lock, which was locked through the frame.

The guy seemed a little too out of place and a little too interested in the bike racks. I finished locking up the bike and walked into the building, but watched from around the corner.

As soon as I got inside the building, the man, who was wearing a gray bandanna, black t-shirt and black athletic shorts, got up and looked like he was walking away, but then he circled back and walked between the bike racks. He stopped and peered a little closer at my bike. It seemed like he was looking to see how the bike was locked.

I started to head out toward my bike when he started walking really quickly toward the stairs into the parking garage (point c).

At that point I decided I wasn’t going to leave my bike there. I was concerned he was going to get a tool to try to steal my bike. I unlocked the bike and started riding toward the secure enclosure I rent across campus. At the same time I called the police and told them the story. The dispatcher I talked to asked if the man had a backpack or any tools. I was impressed she knew to ask that.

I got my bike locked in the enclosure and hoofed it back to McClelland. As I was walking up, I saw a police officer walking around the area.

I stopped him and told him I was the person who called and what happened.

Interestingly he said police tried stopping someone who fit that description earlier in the day, but he disappeared.

I have no idea what he was doing. Perhaps he was just admiring my bike, but it certainly didn’t feel right. I wish I could have gotten a photo.

Have you ever had an encounter with a bike thief? What did you do?

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6 comments
Nate
Nate

There have been a number of times I've been worried people thought I was a bike thief for checking out bikes in the rack. Sounds like you dodged a bullet here, good thing you were aware of your surroundings.

X Tucsonian
X Tucsonian

Yes, when I worked at the UA College of Nursing, I watched a man ride by my office with various bike parts, including a wheel, in his basket. After I saw him go by 3 times (I actually was in a meeting), I asked another staff member to call the police. As soon as we could, we went out to the bike racks at the Life Sciences building and noticed a bunch of bikes missing a variety of parts and wheels. He actually took the old saddle off my 3 speed Schwinn! He came back while we were there but kept on going when he saw us. The UAPD told us they caught up with him later but he didn't have any stolen things with him so they couldn't do anything. Might have been the same thief who cut my cable and stole my single speed from the rack right in front of my office, in broad daylight. Bike theft is rampant in Tucson. I also had 3 road bikes stolen from my garage while I was sleeping in my house. They got the garage door opener out of my girlfriend's car on the driveway. Lets say I'm happy I don't live in Tucson anymore.

jeff
jeff

I got woken up in the middle of the night a few weeks ago by my dogs. When I looked out the front door to see what they were barking at, I could see my rear reflector slowly moving away and a silhouette next to it. I instintively open the door, letting the dogs out and following them. I said "Hey" really loudly. The young man put my bike down and started walking away. What if he had had a knife? I was a little scared, but I still have my bike. I don't forget to lock it to the rack anymore. After I came back in the house, I thanked the dogs for waking me up.

I would have done exactly what you did. Thieves will usually go for the easiest thing to steal, and secondarily the best bike they can find. I have a not-very-sexy bike and a pretty good lock. That is my strategy generally. 

Red Star
Red Star

" I unlocked the bike and started riding toward the secure enclosure I rent across campus."

Interesting and somewhat understandable.

Perhaps the great big U should build more secured enclosures all around campus and consolidate the many scattered racks (thief magnets) into them. Doing this might result in less bike theft and more organized bike traffic flow. Of course, the cyclist might have to walk (OMG!) the last 50 yards. Zero rent for secure bike parking.

An interesting proposal for planning, accounting, public admin, marketing, criminal justice majors and graduate students to study?

Gabrielle
Gabrielle

Actually, yes.  Ended up doing much the same thing you did: doubling back and coming towards where my bike was locked up, because I got a "feeling" about a young guy that was just sort of hanging  around the racks. And just as you experienced, "my" (probable) thief walked away very fast, while turning his head kind of the other way too.

I am a big believer in "trusting your instincts". Your approach was right on, and you not only quite possibly saved your bike from being stolen, but also might have prevented the theft of someone else's. Kudos.

websissy
websissy

Wow - I would have done what you did!  Stinks that you can't even trust to leave a nice bike locked up without fear of it being stolen!