By Daniel Nguyen
In response to the uptick in bicycle thefts this past year, Public Safety (PS) has created a new bicycle registration program that will commence this Wednesday, Nov. 8, during Common Hour. Students passing through the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center at that time will be able to have their bicycles engraved by PS Officer Edward Hagenmiller to make bikes more retrievable in case they are stolen.
The registration will log students’ contact information and address, a description of their bike and a unique PS ID number that will be engraved into the bike using a professional grade power tool designating the bike as Hofstra student property. Additionally, the program will provide students with instructions on how to properly secure their bikes on campus.
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Hagenmiller, a retiree from the New York City Police Department, coordinated the program due to his experience with such initiatives in the past as a Crime Preventions Officer in the city. He said the department had a similar bike registration program. “Since discussing the issues we’ve been having with losing our bikes, I said, ‘Why don’t we get together and do something like that here,’” Hagenmiller said.
The program is in its early stages. “We’re just in the process of rolling out the registration program,” Hagenmiller said. But according to Robert McDonald, the associate director of Operations at PS, who also helped put together the registration form, “We can start right away if anyone wanted to do a walk-in. We’re ready to go now.”
The need for a bike recovery program has increased this semester as reports of stolen bikes across campus have been accumulating. PS hopes to prevent these by advising students on how to better secure their bike on campus, suggesting students use a U-lock rather than the wires provided in on-campus bike shelters.
McDonald explained the increased risk and PS’s response to bike thieves at Hofstra. “A college campus is open. Anybody during the daytime, up into 10 o’clock at night, can come onto campus,” McDonald said. If a bike thief were caught, McDonald said, “We can have them banned from campus. We can’t have them arrested because it’s not our bike, but the person who owns the bike can have them arrested.”
The registration program would also allow cooperation between PS and Hempstead’s Police Department. “This is to help the students keep their bikes, and if they’re stolen, give it back to them,” McDonald said. “As we expand this program we can actually notify the Police Department. Sometimes they recover bicycles.”
PS plans to expand the program by sending out a mass email, spreading news by general word-of-mouth and contacting resident directors and resident assistants who know student bicycle owners. The program is voluntary and free.
Student opinion varies on the program, with some appreciative of the increased security it would provide to all bikes at Hofstra.
“I love biking around campus and have limited doing so lately because of the thefts,” said Gabe Salzman, a junior radio production and studies major. “I thought my lock was fine but once I heard that some of the thefts were bikes that were locked up, I’m always nervous as to whether or not my bike is safe when I’m in class or in my dorm. If there was a way for Public Safety to help keep track of the bikes around campus, it would help my peace of mind.”
PS characterizes the nascent program as recovery-oriented, but some students are doubtful it will even be able to do that. “It’s not so much an anti-theft program as it is more of a recovery program so we can get you back your property if we recover it,” Hagenmiller said.
PS has up to 10 bikes now in storage, but none of them are engraved and students haven’t been claiming their bikes. Not one of the five bikes stolen from Hofstra’s campus since January 2017 has been recovered.
Zach Klebaner, a junior film studies major, said of the program, “I don’t think it’ll work. It’s just registering the bike. It’s kind of like a formality. It’s just so Hofstra can be like, ‘we have proof that your bike was stolen because you registered it and you don’t have it,’ but after that there’s nothing they can do to get the bike back. Hofstra Public Safety isn’t going to go like a SWAT team into Hempstead and look for the bike. I don’t know how they’re going to get the bike back with that program specifically.”
Klebaner saw some potential in the educational aspects of the new initiative. He thinks keeping students informed of proper storage is truly where the problem can be prevented. “The education part is a plus … Maybe these bikes are getting stolen because not many people are locking their bikes properly,” Klebaner said. “So the education part might help, but the registration is just a formality.”