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Bike Thefts at our schools

Original post made by Paly Parent, Palo Alto High School, on Feb 4, 2014

I recently attended a meeting with several other parents. During the meeting, almost as a by the way, the topic of bike thefts came up. It seems that there is a recent upturn in the number of bikes being stolen from bike racks in our schools. In spite of having some bike cages at Paly, there are many bike racks around the campus and the kids use these for various reasons (nearer the classroom, unlocked at lunch) rather than cages.

The office staff take a note of every reported bike theft, but as far as anyone knows nothing is being done to help find stolen bikes or to make them more secure while locked during the school day.

Because of the amount of construction at Paly, and probably other schools, a construction worker with tools in hand is not an uncommon sight. Presumably someone with a bike is also not an uncommon sight during the school day. Even with good bike locks, bikes are being stolen. Thieves know that the theft of a bike probably won't be noticed until the end of the school day and by that time, the thief will be long gone.

Is there anything more that can be/should be done to protect our kids' bikes. We know that more and more kids are riding bikes to school and we are advertising that all the time. The thieves are reading that information as an invitation to steal them.

What can be done?

Comments (12)

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 4, 2014 at 2:24 pm

ps, I am not blaming construction workers. I am just saying that if a thief looks like a construction worker, he can get around campus without causing suspicion and presumably so can his tools and his truck.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 4, 2014 at 3:23 pm

What brands and models of "good locks" are being broken by thieves? Hardened steel U-locks (sold for less than $50 at local bike shops) generally require power tools to break. Are thieves really using power tools on school grounds these days?

All cable locks are garbage and shame on parents who are buying these for their kids.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 4, 2014 at 4:24 pm

I can't attest to the types of locks, but we are talking about thefts on school campuses during the school day.

Shame on our schools for not watching out for our kids' bikes. I am sure if there was damage to the staff cars parked on campus during the school day there would be a great deal more concern.

This is not about bikes being parked on public property in downtown areas, this is about bikes on school property during the school day when there should be an alert for strangers on campus who have no business being there.
If they can't watch for a bike thief who must have some type of vehicle to put the many bikes stolen in one day, I wonder how vigilant they can be about someone with a gun arriving on campus.

Our schools are obviously not keeping watch for strangers on campus.


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Posted by Jordan Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2014 at 5:35 pm

The thief apparently uses cutters that can cut through locks, and is fully aware that the bike stands are never supervised


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Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 4, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Yes, schools should be doing a better job with bicycle security, such as moving the bike racks to a central area where they can be more closely watched. Until they do that, parents need to do their job, too. Throw away those cheap cable locks that can be easily broken with hand cutters. ALL cable bicycle locks are worthless.

Get your kids at least mid-range U-locks like Kryptonite Series 2 or OnGuard Bulldog ($40 or so at bike shops) and teach them how to use it. These kinds of locks are very difficult to break with hand cutters and noisy power tools should be heard from nearby classrooms.

When cars get burglarized, the cops usually blame the victims for leaving valuables inside their cars. Same happens to bicycle theft victims using cable locks.


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Posted by the takers
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 4, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Every single kid on the Paly campus knows who steals the bikes and they say nothing. Time for the students to rise up against the thieves.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 5, 2014 at 8:27 am

If students really do know who is stealing the bikes and don't turn them in, they are just collaborating with people who are causing a lot of pain to fellow students.


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 5, 2014 at 9:21 am

"Every single kid on the Paly campus knows who steals the bikes and they say nothing."
Wrong! My bike was stolen and I would have happily reported the bike thief had I known who they were. I don't know who's currently stealing bikes.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2014 at 10:37 am

JustMe is a registered user.

Are there no surveillance cameras pointed at these bike racks? Multi-camera video surveillance systems that can record a month of footage are so cheap now and so easy to install, I don't understand why these are not being used. There is a TON of information that could be gotten from even the grainiest of footage, and many of these cameras work great in the daylight with clear pictures. When a student reports a bicycle missing, an operator could go to that camera's data, find when the bike was there, and find when it was gone, and then see the theft take place. Worried about the cameras being sabotaged before a theft? Just have the cameras positioned to cover each other, and you could see who did it.

Bicycle theft is a common problem at the schools, I have been hearing about it for years. Why have simple defensive steps not been taken?

Oh, wait, we are talking about school administration getting something done. Have they ever managed to get the clocks set properly at Jordan? They have the same clock system at Duvineck, but it works properly. I asked a Kindergarten teacher about the clocks and mentioned that the clocks at Jordan, and he said "They are still wrong? They were always wrong when I attended Jordan." I guess we cannot ask school administrators to address and solve problems, even simple ones.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 5, 2014 at 9:47 pm

To those who advocate U-locks, they can only be used on the outside bike racks which are taller so the bike frame can be locked to the bike rack.

The bike racks in the cage are too low to use U-locks unless you get an end spot, which is why students use those worthless cable locks which can be cut like a knife through butter.

The bikes of those with extracurricular sports are at highest risk - sometimes the bikes are stripped.

Even bikes at Jordan in the cages are targeted. I was told that someone actually hopped the bike fence on North CA and stripped a bike some years ago. North CA is a semi-busy street. One time my daughter had to stay after school for 20 minutes and her bike was messed with. We took it to the bike shop and they said someone had loosened the screws on her handlebars and she was lucky she didn't have an accident.

Another issue on campus is theft from P.E. lockers. There are cameras, but they cannot video the areas where people are changing. If P.E. teachers locked the gym while classes are in session, it would help, but a thief would probably hide-out and wait till the gym is locked and then go to town when no one else can enter. The most vulnerable time for P.E. locker theft is after school when students have sports. The gym cannot be locked because there are too many sports in session.

Unfortunately, I cannot think of any solutions except hiring security guards. Let's see if our new Principal Diorio has any solutions.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 5, 2014 at 9:49 pm

C, when was yours stolen and where was it? Was it during school hours at Paly?

Correct, no one knows who is stealing bikes, but I have heard they are not students.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 6, 2014 at 10:05 am

I hope you folks are reporting these thefts to the police and not just school officials. If the school isn't doing enough, maybe the police can lean on them. Lots of thefts doesn't look good on the police stat sheet.


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