Bike theft on the rise

For students attending Tilburg University, cycling is one of the most common, efficient and reliable forms of transportation meaning that most students at the university own a bike. Unfortunately a large portion of the student population is victim to bike theft.

According to an article published January 31, 2011 on Tilburg.com, from 2009 to 2010 bike theft decreased nearly 49%. However, the preventative measures have fallen short in recent years. Willem van Hooijdonk, one of the spokesmen for the Tilburg police department, stated that 2,667 bicycles were stolen in 2014.

‘Lokfietsen’
There are many ways in which students can avoid becoming a victim of bike theft. In regards to future plans this article mentioned “lokfietsen”, which is a bicycle used to lure thieves. Van Hooijdonk verified this preventive method is still being used. Tilburg police utilize this “trap bicycle” system in order to catch bike thieves. Van Hooijdonk said, bicycles without locks are being placed in certain areas that are observed by officials. Essentially, a bike thief will come to steal it and when he/she does so the police appear and make an arrest.

Van Hooijdonk stated that 58 bike thief suspects in Tilburg were caught “red-handed” in the year 2014. When a suspect is caught it depends on a number of factors before a specific consequence is decided upon. “Some bike thieves get a dismissal, others are placed in a special facility for habitual offenders,” said Van Hooijdonk.

Bicycle stalling
Many precautions are taken to prevent bicycle theft in Tilburg.  “We clear a lot of areas where bicycles are being stalled. In these particular areas it is forbidden to stall your bicycle, so the Tilburg municipality clears those areas,” he said.

“Bicycles which are stalled in the same place for a long time, or “stray bicycles”, are being cleared as well,” he added. Police have “implemented better signage” in order to clear places for bicycle stalling. The effects of this preventative method and a combination of others have only lasted temporarily. An article published in ‘Brabants Dagblad’ from June 2014 stated bike theft had in fact increased after the central station bicycle sheds were redesigned.

Van Hooijdonk mentioned that there are designated places to stall bicycles, for example there are five guarded areas located in the city center all of which are free. Additionally there is one located at the Central Station that you are required to pay €1.25. Due to minimal monitoring of bike storage areas many students refuse to report their stolen bicycles.

Stolen bikes
Ilse Vernooij, a student at Tilburg University, is now riding her seventh bicycle while in her third year of study. “All of my bikes were second hand. I have no proof that they were mine to begin with, and it is too much of an effort to go to the police,” she said.

A survey amongst 50 students studying at Tilburg University revealed that 82% of bike theft victims do not report their bicycles as stolen to officials. When inquired why the students did not report their bicycles 90% chose the option “Reporting my bicycle as stolen was not worth the time or effort.”

These results show that the majority of bicycles that are stolen go unreported. Therefore the actual number of bicycles stolen on a yearly basis is likely to surpass the figures that are available to us.

According to Tilburg Police the number of stolen bikes reported is likely to be skewed in comparison with the total number of bikes stolen. This is due to many bikes being stolen and then the owners do not report it to the police for a variety of reasons. Van Hooijdonk said, “There is no way to measure the total number of bikes stolen, probably a lot more bikes are stolen. People don’t always report it to the police.”

Bike thieves on Tilburg university grounds
According to Cees Braken, the head of safety and security, 91 bikes were stolen in the month of March in Tilburg, and 15 bikes were stolen on Tilburg University grounds. Out of the 15 bikes that were stolen at the university Braken said, “We have caught only one bike thief in the university.” He also said that this bike thief was not a student at the university. According to Braken, if a student is caught stealing bicycles he will be dismissed from school.

Rodrigo Dias, another student from Tilburg University stated, “On 15th of March, my bike got stolen from Professor Verbernelaan. I locked my bike to the sheds in front of the buildings, and I didn’t report it. The other day we saw 4 people who were trying to steal my friend’s bike. They were around 14-15 years old. I am not entirely sure, but they probably stole my bike as well.”

Students living in the Professor Verbernelaan buildings next the Tilburg University are often victims of bike theft. According to Dias, “If you leave your bicycle unlocked outside of our buildings then it will definitely get stolen. Bike thieves are always walking by checking all of the bikes.”

A student who would like to remain anonymous said, “No, I never reported my bicycle because no one ever gets their bikes returned. One of my bicycles was really expensive and I didn’t bother reporting it. I also haven’t reported my bicycles because I also steal bicycles when mine are stolen.”

Drunk
Another student who admitted to stealing a bike recounted his experiences and justified in saying he had been drunk and in need of a bike, he said, “I think that it was safe to say that I’d had a little too much to drink. I had been out with some classmates at a bar and from there we hit up a night club and to be honest, I didn’t expect to spend as much money as I did on alcohol. When I felt like leaving the club, I left alone and was dreading the walk home as I had spent what was meant to be my taxi money.”

He continued, “Suddenly, I realized that I was on the street alone, there was nobody around and I did what I did. I was in need and I don’t feel guilty…”

Essentially, this student represents the majority of the bike bandits in Tilburg. Many students do not engage in bike theft to harm others but only when they are personally in need.

Another student, who would like to remain anonymous, said, “If my bike gets stolen I just steal someone else’s. I only take bikes that are unlocked, so I guess it isn’t really stealing.”

Our results have shown that much of bike theft in Tilburg is due to personal needs rather than monetary gain meaning that the thievery is not out of spite but, as a student, there is a high probability that your bike will be stolen.

Dit artikel is geschreven door studenten Transmedia Journalism van Tilburg University: Cassandra Catsaros, Jennifer Johnson, Iskander de Lange, Gizem Isildak en Yannick Maas.

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