GTPD Stresses Bicycle Safety, Security

In recent months the Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) has been emphasizing bicycle security and safety.

And for good reason. February saw an uptick in bicycle thefts on campus, and the number of bicycle accidents has been on the rise as the number of bikes has increased at Georgia Tech.

Thanks to outstanding police work, including the use of technology and information from students, two suspects were arrested in connection with multiple bicycle thefts within 10 days of each other. Keith Oliver of Lithonia was arrested March 6 for loitering and prowling. He has subsequently been charged with four counts of misdemeanor theft by taking and three counts of possession of tools for commission of a crime. He is suspected of taking five bikes between December and March.

Ralph Price of Decatur was arrested Feb. 23 and charged with theft by taking. He was caught in the act of taking a bicycle outside of the College of Design-West Building. Price has previously been caught stealing bikes at Georgia Tech, Georgia State University and Emory University. Both Oliver and Price are at the Fulton County Jail.

“I’m really proud of the way the department responded to this rash of bike thefts,” said GTPD Chief Rob Connolly. “Overall, the crime stats have been decreasing and it would be easy to get complacent.  But our officers implemented initiatives, utilized the technologies at their disposal and employed good old-fashioned police work to apprehend two suspects. Now we hope the Georgia Tech community will work with us by taking precautions to reduce the likelihood they will be the victim of theft.”

Of the 11 bicycle thefts recorded in February, nine were bikes that either were not secured at all or were secured by something other than a u-lock.

“It’s pretty simple: lock your bikes,” said Sgt. Gary Cook, who heads the GTPD Core Team and is a League Cycling Instructor through the League of American Bicyclists. “Don’t secure it to handrails or benches or anything other than a bike rack. Cables are okay, chains are better and the u-locks are the best.”

Abandoned bicycles are also a target of thieves. Most of the bikes stolen in February were in the same location for more than 16 hours. According to the Georgia Tech Bicycle Use Policy, bicycles that are parked in a manner that impedes traffic or building access will be tagged and impounded after 24 hours. If a bike blocks emergency access, it can be impounded immediately. An impound fee of $25 is required to reclaim a bicycle.

GTPD routinely tags bikes left on racks for more than 30 days. Once a bike has been tagged, it will be impounded if not moved within 14 days. Impounded bikes are transferred to Georgia Tech Starter Bikes if unclaimed after another 30 days and eligible for resale by Starter Bikes.

Another emphasis of the GTPD bicycle safety initiative has been stepped up enforcement on roadways. On Feb. 20 and March 2, GTPD conducted Operation Safe Cycle, stopping cyclists who ran the stop sign at the intersection of Fourth and Fowler streets and giving warnings. Officers also distributed pocket guides to the traffic laws applicable to bicycling. The guides are available at GTPD and Parking and Transportation Services.

For the past several months, GTPD has been working to educate bicyclists and will soon be increasing enforcement by issuing citations to violators.

“Accidents are still happening,” Cook said. “We have to step up enforcement to keep both bicyclists and pedestrians safe.”

GTPD and Parking and Transportation Services will be offering more bicycle safety classes in the coming months after the success of the first-ever class March 4. Other resources are available at the GTPD and Parking and Transportation Services offices.

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