At least three bicycles were stolen from the Goshen College campus in the past month. Campus security and the Goshen City Police have yet to succeed at retrieving them.For years, bikes have been stolen from racks around campus, with incidences increasing in the fall months.
While some students and community members suspect they know who is behind many of the thefts, campus safety and the police say there isn’t enough evidence to make accusations and instead tell bike owners to be more careful with their property.
David Lopez, a junior sports management major, found the lock to his bike (which is his only form of transportation) clipped on the ground next to Kulp Hall.
A few weeks earlier, Greta Lapp Klassen, a junior, found her bike lock snipped and laying in the grass in front of her house where the bike had been parked for the night. And Drew Smoker, a sophomore physics major, found the combination cable which had locked her recently-purchased bike cut in two next to the Yoder dormitory.
Lapp Klassen eventually got her bike back (minus a few accessories) after a drawn-out exchange between her father and a suspected culprit, but the others have not been so fortunate.
According to Chad Coleman, director of campus safety, there is a common denominator between the recently stolen bikes: all of them were locked with a cable lock.
Coleman said that thieves target two things: “nice bikes [and] cheap locks.” A rope lock, he said, is “about as effective as tying shoestrings around it” – all it takes to cut the lock is a pair of shears and a hastily-devised plan.
Lt. Nick Kauffman of the Goshen Police explained that bike thefts are often “crimes of opportunity.” While the responsibility always lies first with the criminal, there are best practices to follow to make it more difficult to steal, and the most important of these is getting a U-lock, which is made of reinforced steel and cannot be clipped with shears.
Cutting a U-lock requires an angle grinder and about 15 minutes of noise and flying sparks, Coleman said.
During his five years as campus safety director at Goshen, he has only been aware of one bike with a U-lock being stolen from campus.
Once a bike is stolen, however, it is unlikely that it will be recovered by campus security or law enforcement.
Unless a student has “strong, concrete evidence” on what happened to their bike, Coleman explained, campus safety doesn’t have the resources to go door to door trying to find bikes.
For every bike theft reported, Coleman said that he looks through footage from cameras placed near some bike racks and files a report with the Goshen police. To date, camera footage has not yet led to any recovered bikes or leads.
The one bike that was stolen despite having a U-lock belonged to Mariah Kaufman, a senior music and secondary education double major. Her high-quality bike was stolen from the courtyard between the Miller and Kratz dormitories in 2018.
In a surprising twist to the story, Kaufman later saw a man riding her bike, found his name and filed a report. She never got the bike back, but three years later, it was from the same man that Lapp Klassen’s father got her missing bike.
Neither a member of the police’s investigative team nor the Division Chief reported ever hearing the man’s name.
Coleman said he includes the name and a photo of the individual – who denies any responsibility – in the reports he makes to the police when possible, but the police have not made any progress on the leads.
Action on the part of the police may come soon. A day after The Record interviewed the police, Lopez got a phone call from them asking some follow-up questions on the report.
That would be quite relieving for Lopez, who said “it sucks” not having a ride anymore for doing errands and getting himself around.