Although it represents just a small fraction of the reported bike thefts throughout the MBTA system during the course of a year, Transit Police are reminding people who pedal to train stations and lock up their rides inside of the T’s new caged facilities to be aware of who’s around them.
Since January 1, seven people have reported their bikes stolen from secured cages that are meant to thwart criminals from riding off with someone else’s wheels. Two have happened in the last two months.
“It’s just one of those things. No matter what you do, some of these bike thieves are finding a way to overcome it,” said MBTA Police Spokesman Richard Sullivan.
People can only access the “Pedal and Park” bike cages, which are set up outside of various stations, by using a pre-registered MBTA CharlieCard. The facilities, installed by the T in partnership with MassBike, Livable Streets Alliance, and the MBTA’s Bikes and Transit Advisory Committee, are also equipped with six high-tech security cameras, lighting, and a police intercom system.
But T police said Monday that bikes still go missing, especially when left unattended for lengthy periods of time. T Police said thieves are gaining access to the facilities in the same manner that scofflaws try and avoid paying the fare at MBTA kiosks—by piggybacking people who have registered cards.
“This is a clear analogy for you: you’re at an ATM and it’s after hours, and you need your card to get through the door when someone walks in behind you, pretending he’s looking for his card,” said Sullivan. “They pretend to go to a bike that’s not theirs, and when people leave the cage, they take advantage of it.”
Sullivan said sometimes the bikes aren’t locked up, making them easy targets, and other times, suspects will merely clip the locks attached to the bicycles. Police have been asking riders to use stronger locks if possible.
Sullivan said another factor for bikes being stolen from the cages stems from riders leaving them for days at a time. The MBTA Police recently started leaving reminders in the form of tickets on some bicycles as an incentive to get people to take their bikes home.
“Sometimes bikes have been parked there for 10 days, seven days—they see this bike hasn’t moved and it makes it more of an attractive target for them,” Sullivan said. “These aren’t [long term] storage facilities. Some bikes linger, so [the tickets] were a multi-faceted attempt to keep space available, and in my opinion help deter thefts.”
One of the most recent thefts occurred this month at the Orange Line’s Oak Grove station, one of the first new cages unveiled by the MBTA back in 2013 as part of a federal grant program to provide additional access to safer bike-locking options.
The August theft, which is currently under investigation, was one of seven reported bike thefts from cages since the start of 2014. Year-to-date, there have been 149 bike thefts reported on MBTA property, an increase from last year. Sullivan said the thefts from the cages, which are typically captured by cameras affixed to the ceilings of the facilities, represent just five percent of the reported thefts.
“The fact that only seven have been taken from the cages is indicative that it has the great potential to reduce larcenies,” he said.
Sullivan said riders storing and picking up their bikes should still be vigilant when entering the facilities, however, and not allow people to enter behind them if they don’t have a card visible in their hands.
“Our ultimate goal is to reduce the number of bike larcenies to a bare minimum if that’s possible. We need everyone’s cooperation for that,” he said. “If someone is coming in behind you, don’t let them in unless they have a card. We don’t want anyone to get into a confrontation, but if someone is insisting on going in without a CharlieCard, they should give us a call.”
Five more secure bike stations are slated to open later this year.
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