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Bike thefts are down overall, despite holiday weekend thefts

Binhai Zheng’s son expected to return home from the holiday weekend to his red mountain bike, which he left parked in front of the Claremont Museum of Art.

Instead, Alvin’s bike was ransacked—the wheels were gone, and what was left was still secured against the rack by its U-Lock.

“It’s a very ugly scene,” Mr. Zheng said. “This is a very civilized, very nice town. We cannot let criminals take charge.”

Alvin, an 18-year-old student at Harvey Mudd College, had left his bike at the CMA racks before with no problem, so he figured it was okay to leave it when he took the train to San Diego to visit family for the Thanksgiving weekend.

When the family gave Alvin a ride back to Claremont Sunday morning, they found that the entire rack was plundered. A total of five bicycles, including Alvin’s bike, were left in pieces in the public area.

“It’s like lifeless horses just sitting there,” Mr. Zheng said. “It’s not an inspiring scene.”

Captain Aaron Fate of the Claremont Police Department said that overall, bike thefts in the Village and Claremont are down, though the threat still remains.

In 2016, there were 131 bike thefts in Claremont, with 13 in the Village. This year so far, there have been 86 bikes stolen, with nine of them in the Village, Captain Fate said.

“Right now it’s down,” he said. “Hopefully it stays that way until the end of the year.”

The majority of the thefts are in and around the colleges, he added.

“A lot of it is the concentration—there are a lot of bikes there,” Captain Fate said. “People will go where there’s a lot of bikes to steal.”

Captain Fate credits the drop in bike thefts to increased education from the department and the colleges, where students are instructed to lock their bikes at all times and to register them with the police.

Oftentimes, Captain Fate said, police would find a bike they suspect was stolen, but the owner could not be found because it wasn’t registered. You can register your bike for free at Project529.com

Bike thieves, Captain Fate said, are primarily looking for opportunity. They lurk in areas where there isn’t a lot of foot travel, and zero in on bikes that look expensive.

Thefts like what happened to Mr. Zheng, where parts of the bike were stolen as opposed to the whole thing, are more rare, Captain Fate said. The best thing to do to is to take the wheel off and take it with you.

“Typically, the components aren’t as valuable as the bike itself, so the goal is to take the entire thing,” he said.

But he noted that of the four bike thefts that occurred in front of the CMA, three thieves have been arrested. Overall, arrests have gone up as well, from six in 2015, 18 in 2016 to 14 captured thieves in 2017 so far.

Alvin’s family eventually replaced his bike, which initially cost about $200.

“He needs a bike to play tennis, he needs a bike to go around,” Mr. Zheng said. “He has to have a bike.”

But Alvin’s father is making sure his son’s new bike doesn’t fall prey to thieves again.

“We gave him two locks now,” he added.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com