Campus Sees Increase in Bike Theft

Bates bike owners beware: at least nine bikes have been stolen so far this semester. At least five of those bikes were stolen in the past two weeks. 

On Oct. 11, 2022, Adam Joseph ’25, found his bike missing from its rack on the lawn of Moulton House on Frye Street, where he lives on campus. His cable bike lock was on the ground and appeared to have been cut. Joseph reported the theft of his bright red hybrid bike to Campus Safety, but he has not heard anything since. He is now unsure if he wants to purchase another bike – if he does, it will be a cheap bike with a more durable lock, he says. Joseph added that not having his bike changes his daily routine. “It makes it a lot harder to get to places farther across campus, like the gym,” he recently stated. 

Tim Butler ’25 and Will Skilton ’25 are roommates in Chase House, which is also on Frye street. Butler’s bike was stolen in early September, and Butler said he knows several friends who have also had bikes stolen this year. 

Around 12:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13, both Butler and Skilton returned home and found a man rummaging around the bike rack in front of the house’s porch. At first, they didn’t process what was happening, but soon realized that the man was trying to cut through the cable of their housemate’s bike lock.

When Butler and Skilton called Bates Campus Safety, the man cutting the lock had become agitated and began to curse at them, so they went inside the house to wait for help. Before Campus Safety arrived, the man abandoned his effort at cutting the bike lock and left by crossing Frye Street and continuing onto Oak Street.  

Butler and Skilton described the man as skinny and Caucasian, in his early 40s to 50s. He wore a dark hoodie sweatshirt and a bandana on his head. He appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to the students. 

Paul Menice, the director of Campus Safety, said Bates has had nine reported bike thefts this semester between Aug. 22 and Oct. 17, compared to seven in the same time period last year.

Menice said bike locks are important deterrents. “The most important thing is to lock your bicycle to a bike rack using a U-style lock. We’ve found that a large percentage of the stolen bicycles had cable or chain locks, which were cut during the thefts. The design of the U-style lock makes it more difficult to cut through. It’s stronger and more secure.”

Is it also important to register your bike with Campus Safety, said Menice. When you register a bike with Campus Safety, a sticker will be put on it, which deters theft and helps identify your bike. 

“The serial number, along with the manufacturer, model and color will be recorded and kept with Campus Safety,” he said. “In case the bicycle is stolen, this information is quickly available to the Lewiston Police Department, which helps them identify a stolen bike. If the bicycle is recovered, it’s easier to return it to its owner.” 

Bikes are most frequently stolen from Campus Avenue, Frye Street and the area around central campus, Menice added. 

Investigations on cases of bike theft are handled by the Lewiston Police Department. “Sometimes the Lewiston Police Department is able to recover stolen bicycles, but of the nine reported stolen from Bates so far this year, none have been recovered,” Menice explained. 

According to Menice, Lewiston police believe it is most likely juveniles who are stealing these bikes. The Lewiston Police did not return a phone call to discuss the subject of bike theft. 

The spike in bike thefts is not isolated to the Bates campus. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for bikes and bike parts have surged, according to an article by Gillian Graham from the Portland Press Herald

“Pandemic-driven demand for bikes is making them a hot item for thieves” Graham reported, explaining how shortages caused by supply-chain issues during the pandemic, as well as an increase in demand for outdoor equipment likes bikes, makes it easy for thieves to make a profit on for-sale-by-owner websites, or even by selling to bike shops. 

With only a few more weeks left in the semester to bike, Menice said it is important that students pay attention to how they are securing and storing their bikes.