On Feb. 1 2011, New College police issued a campus-wide email to the student body attempting to locate the owner of a non-registered bike which had been recovered after officers arrested a 48 year old non-affiliated male, Troy Miller, whom New College students confirmed had stolen the bike. Miller was seen taking the bike from the rack outside of B dorm at approximately 12:20 a.m. on the 1st when students promptly called campus police. Miller was then arrested and charged with trespassing.
“He had been issued another trespass warning on a prior date, actually a month previous to that,” Chief Wes Walker explained. “And he was back again.”
Interestingly enough, crime as a whole in Sarasota has gone down in the past year. Index crimes such as murder, robbery, sex offences and more have dropped eight percent from 2009 to 2010 and the total amount of arrests for the county have fallen 12 percent. New College’s campus however, has exhibited a contrasting spike or upward trend in crime within the last year.
Although he did not have exact statistics, Walker mentioned definitively in his email, “We have had an increase in bike thefts on campus over the last year.” In person, he added, “When we printed our uniform crime reports, we obviously had an increase in theft overall [from the] prior year of reporting [to] this last year.”
When asked about the “extra measures” campus police would be implementing in response to the uprising, Walker could not reveal too much but did say, “We’ve had officers out in unmarked cars, you know, basically surveying certain areas.”
Walker stressed that students should take the necessary precautions to keep their property secure. In addressing bike safety he stated, “Please register them and make sure they’re secure with a sturdy lock. We did have a couple thefts where some pretty heavy and substantial chains or locks were cut—so they [the bike thieves] were apparently using some sort of tool, too. We had another theft where somebody had secured a wheel to the rack but the whole bike’s gone. So secure it properly through the frame—that usually helps quite a bit.”
Walker also explained that prosecution of the offenders is essential in stemming the swell in crime. In one instance a few months back, campus police officers apprehended two juveniles who had stolen a couple bikes. “We recover two bikes, we have two victims who are New College students—but they don’t want to pursue the matter. So in effect, [the offenders] walk on those charges of theft,” Walker said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time if we file charges on somebody and an arrest is made—I don’t recall us ever going to trial on a theft case.” Walker warned that without proper prosecution, there is a strong likelihood that perpetrators will be back.
Another case of recent bike theft turned heads when the victim himself discovered the whereabouts of his missing bike. Second-year Adam Afifi had his bike stolen in December 2010 but by chance managed to find and take back his bike in early February of this year. Afifi first noticed the bike was missing on Dec. 12 but was forced to leave to catch a plane back home for winter break. About a month after coming back however, Afifi noticed two kids aged 14-16 riding their bikes down Bay Shore Drive. One of the kids’ bikes looked almost identical to his with the exception that it was painted a different color. Afifi followed them until he affirmed it was indeed his bike to which he then confronted the kids. The two were confused as they had borrowed the bike from a friend and were unaware that the bike had been stolen. Afifi eventually called campus police who apprehended the kids and through questioning discovered the alleged thief was a Sarasota high school student named Drew Maibach. Afifi agreed to prosecute though has yet to hear back from campus police.
When asked for some final words on the subject of recent crime, Walker replied, “We just appreciate the community assisting us in what we’re trying to do and keeping themselves and their property safe…If we are fortunate to make an arrest on one of these people, we definitely appreciate your assistance in seeing they are successfully prosecuted.”