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May 30, 2019
The El Camino College Police Department has launched an investigation regarding the recent increase in bicycle thefts after five were stolen between Tuesday, May 14 and Tuesday, May 21, authorities said.
EC Chief of Police Michael Trevis said the investigation was opened up after one of the theft victims decided they wanted to press charges.
“Every once in a while we’ll see a spike in these kinds of thefts,” Supervising Sgt. Francisco Esqueda said.
Trevis said security footage appears to show two suspects coming from the Alondra Park area off Manhattan Beach Boulevard which is separated from EC by the Dominguez Channel.
“We’re trying to identify them, we don’t know who they are,” Trevis said.
Esqueda said the removal of homeless residents from the channel, along with their belongings, could have contributed to the recent increase in bike thefts.
For the first time since Tuesday, March 26, residents of the homeless encampment were kicked out of the channel by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department along with other resource agencies including the L.A. County Department of Public Works, Trevis said.
Esqueda said the L.A. County agencies come in and throw away anything the residents can’t take with them.
“I don’t know if the people, maybe, that were down there are looking for replacements for what they had,” Esqueda said. “It’s just one of the things that struck me as a little odd and it kind of coincided with the dates.”
The Union visited the emptied out channel and found some residents had returned after the displacement, however, they declined to comment on the recent bike thefts.
The EC Police Department sent out an email alerting community members about the increase in bike thefts on Wednesday, May 22.
According to the email, seven bikes were stolen over the span of two weeks but five of the thefts were in the span of one week. Before May, there was only one reported bike theft.
There have now been eight bike thefts this semester compared to three last in fall 2018, Trevis said.
“Some of our students are purchasing very, forgive me, cheap [bike] locks,” Trevis said. “And you get what you pay for.”
Trevis said thieves may be looking for locks they can break with accessible tools, including bolt cutters.
But Trevis said what baffles him the most when watching security footage isn’t the thefts but impervious students walking past the thief who is in the process of stealing a bike.
Photography major Matthew O’Neal, whose primary method of transportation to school is a bike, said he was not aware of the increase in bike thefts despite the mass email sent to all students.
“I use to drive but after I got in a car accident, I chose to ride my bike to school,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal said hearing about the recent increase makes him feel scared and intimidated about coming on campus.
O’Neal said he thinks adding more cameras around visible areas on campus would help catch the thieves and reduces thefts.
Methods are being discussed to improve bike and campus security, Trevis said.
“We’ve got work out a mechanism in which somebody can lock their bike and feel safe that when you come back it’s gonna be there,” Trevis said.
One idea is to have a bike parking station surrounded by a chain-linked fence, Trevis said.
Bikes would have to be checked in and out but would require hiring someone to be responsible for securing them, Trevis said.
In the meantime, Trevis said the police department is doing what they can to identify the suspects.