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Number of thefts shoots up on the MIT campus

By Annabelle Boyd

There has recently been a marked rise in the number of reported thefts throughout the MIT community, according to Cheryl Vossmer, Campus Police crime prevention officer.

Over the last four months, 91 bikes have been reported stolen from the MIT campus. In addition, over $100,000 has been stolen in the form of backpacks, wallets, purses and loose cash since January. These figures combine Institute, personal and residence hall losses.

According to Vossmer, one of the reasons for the increase in thefts might be the greater opportunity provided to thieves by MIT's openness as a campus. "Students and staff tend to trust that their campus is isolated from the dangers of urban crime, but, in actuality, MIT is an urban campus and does attract much of the urban crime element," she said.

Of the 91 bike thefts since July, 36 occurred in October alone, according to the Campus Police unofficial account. For the period from January to June, a total of 73 bicycles were taken. The summer and early fall months are usually the prime operating months for bike thieves, Vossmer said.

According to Vossmer, some of the bike theft problem involves design weaknesses in the imitation Kryptonite locks often used by MIT students to secure their bikes to bike racks. These locks can be easily broken by fitting the mouth of a pipe over the long end of the lock mechanism, and using it as a lever to dislodge the spring. The easiest way to prevent T-pipe vandalism is to lock a bike helmet to the bike, so that it covers the locking mechanism, leaving no room for the T-pipe to be inserted, Vossmer said.

The value of the bikes stolen so far this year is estimated at over $300,000, according to unofficial Campus Police records. The Rockwell Cage bike racks have been the most consistently hit by thieves, Vossmer said.

While the Campus Police have been working with area colleges to uncover any possible relations between bike thefts on the MIT campus and on other universities, no clear connections have yet emerged, Vossmer said.

According to Campus Police records, over 160 thefts of backpacks, purses, wallets and loose cash have been reported since January. Some of these reports have been for large sums of money, Vossmer said. A few incidents occurred in which all the wallets and loose cash on several floors of a dormitory or an independent living group were cleaned out by one thief.

Also, the MIT libraries, especially the Humanities Library, have been hard hit by thieves posing as students, according to Vossmer.