Preventing Bike Theft – UW – Madison Police Department

Bike theft is an unfortunate and ongoing problem on the UW campus and in downtown Madison. Every year, we receive many calls for bike theft.

Bikes are stolen for a number of reasons – for starters, they are desirable and portable, which is why they are targeted by thieves. They can also be easily transported out of state, making it extremely difficult to identify stolen bikes.

One of the ways to prevent your bike from being stolen is to make your bike junk. Simply put, have a cheap bike and an expensive lock. Also, don’t leave expensive accessories (lights and bike computers) on the bike when left unattended – bike thieves target these items as well.

The most important method of preventing bicycle theft is to LOCK your bike properly. Proper locking involves attaching your bike frame to a sturdy fixed object – not a tree, wooden fence or another bike (yes, that also means parking meters – they may look sturdy, but the bike and lock can usually be lifted upwards). The other aspect of a good lock is the lock itself. DO NOT USE a cheap cable lock. These can be cut quite easily and do not deter thieves. Use a solid “U” lock, such as those made popular by the Kryptonite brand. If you wish to complete it with an anti-theft chain or cable, please use it to also secure the front and/or rear tire to the fixed object. A good lockout is especially important with the prevalence of e-bikes. Electric bikes are generally much more expensive and much more sought after by thieves.

In addition to properly locking your bike, be sure to document the serial number and take a photo of your bike. It won’t prevent it from being stolen, but without the serial number the chances of getting your bike back are very slim.

The UW-Madison Police Department takes this issue very seriously. We’ve incorporated innovative strategies to help us catch bike thieves over the years, and our on-campus camera system often allows us to obtain footage of the culprits. We hope that by following these bike safety tips, you can enjoy your college experience without losing your two-wheeled mount. However, if you ever need to report a problem to UWPD, please contact our dispatcher, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 608-262-2957.

If you have any questions about bike safety or security, contact Officer Erik Pearce at [email protected] or (608) 262-0846.

Wiley C. Thompson