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Tracking bug could increase number of bikes returned to owners


Bikes are often parked at the RPAC. There were 137 bikes reported stolen at OSU from June 12 to Sept. 27.
Credit: Logan Hickman / Lantern reporter

A recent spike in bicycle thefts near Ohio State has University Police urging students to register their bikes’ serial numbers with a campus program.

There were 137 bikes reported stolen from June 12 to Sept. 27, compared to 79 bikes reported stolen in the same period in 2012, University Police Deputy Chief Richard Morman said.

Morman largely attributed the spike in theft to warmer weather, as well as an earlier OSU move-in date this year on Aug. 17 compared to that of 2012, Aug. 19, resulting in more bikes on campus in the time frame.

Of the bikes reported stolen, 21 have been recovered and 13 arrests have been made, Morman said.

Even so, these recovered bikes aren’t always returned to their owners, because police often have trouble identifying who the recovered bike belongs to. The “Bug Your Bike” program aims to fix that, Morman said.

“We do recover a fair share of bicycles, but often times, we’re not able to connect them back to the owner because when people report their bike as stolen, they don’t know the serial number,” Morman said. “That’s why it’s important to register your bike.”

Registering with the “Bug Your Bike” program involves registering a bike’s serial number with the program’s database and attaching a radio frequency identification device, known as a “bug,” to a bike.

“Bugs” are about the size of a pencil eraser and emit a signal that can be traced from a short distance by electronic readers containing corresponding device numbers, said Ronald Balser, director of Security and Protective Services at the Department of Public Safety.

“Bugs” are free to students and are available at Blankenship Hall, located at 901 Woody Hayes Drive, according to the Department of Public Safety website.

There have been 74 bikes registered with the “Bug Your Bike” program this year, Balser said.

Sean Jepsen, a third-year in finance, said he had his bike stolen at the St. Thomas More Newman Center, located at 64 W. Lane Ave., at the beginning of September and has yet to get it back, which he believes is partially because it was never registered.

“I had heard about the program. It was on my mind, but it was not a high priority to get it ‘bugged’ because I was under the impression that the bug could easily be removed,” Jepsen said.

Jepsen’s bike had sentimental value because it was originally a gift from his mother to his father while they were dating, Jepsen said.

Jepsen has since gotten a new bike, which he said he plans to register with the “Bug Your Bike” program.

Besides registering his new bicycle, Jepsen said he plans to use a “U-lock,” which would better secure his bike.

“I didn’t have a ‘U-lock’ on the (stolen) bike — I had a pretty heavy duty coil lock, even though I know they say you’re not supposed to use those … and now I believe it,” Jepsen said.

A “U-lock” is a bike lock consisting of a “U”-shaped bar attached to a steel crosspiece that a key unlocks. The locks typically cost upward of about $20, compared to cheaper locks that can cost as little as $5.

Morman also said a “U-lock” is essential for optimal bike security.

“You don’t want to have a $1,500 bicycle and go buy a $10 chain to chain it up,” Morman said. “Believe it or not, people go and do that.”

In addition to using a “U-lock,” Morman said he recommends students take a picture of their bike and its serial number so they have that information available when filing a police report.

Like Jepsen, Elizabeth McLennan, a third-year in early childhood education, said she recently had her bike stolen before getting a chance to register it with the “Bug Your Bike” program.

“I was planning on registering it the Monday after it got stolen,” McLennan said in an email. “I am in the process of getting a new bike currently and will definitely register it, only because I will probably have more luck finding it if it does get stolen.”

McLennan’s bike was stolen outside of Jones Tower about three weeks ago and she has yet to get it back, she said.

As for preventing future bike thefts, Morman said the phrase “if you see something, say something” holds true.

“If they (students) see somebody hanging around a bike rack, don’t hesitate to call it in,” Morman said.

A Department of Public Safety representative was unable to provide the cost of the program by Tuesday evening.


  1. If you do ANY research on the internet about how bike locks work, and which ones don’t, you would never buy a cable lock. And WOW your bike wouldn’t get stolen. Judging by the condition of many of the bikes OSU students ride, they don’t care if they get stolen and a cable lock is a testament to that.

  2. Oh and I just remembered. Let’s “bug” your bike so the police can NOT return it later on because they don’t know who it belongs to.

    So whats the freakin’ point? LOL

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