Bike and scooter thieves have Berkeley on lock

Mapping the rise in bike and scooter theft on campus

December 20, 2023
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Clarissa Arceo | Senior Staff

Many Berkeley residents opt to shorten their daily commutes with bikes and electric scooters. But this convenience comes with a risk: theft.

Thefts per year

Data come from UCPD data on reported bike, e-bike, and e-scooter thefts on the UC Berkeley campus ​​from Aug. 1, 2019 to Oct. 31, 2023.

Bike and e-scooter theft has risen since student’s return to campus post-pandemic. As of October 2023, there have been 459 reported thefts this year, compared to 60 in 2020, according to UCPD data.

E-scooter theft specifically has risen dramatically. UCPD records show a clear trend — going from six e-scooter thefts in 2020 to 322 in the first 10 months of 2023. These e-scooters are often more expensive than bicycles as well, making them an appealing option for thieves looking to resell.

In an email, Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Byron White said bicycle theft has been a persistent issue for the city, likely because of the relatively high use of bicycles for transportation compared to neighboring cities.

White linked the rise in recent thefts to the return to in-person activities after the pandemic. He also noted that BPD’s staffing crisis has reduced the Department’s ability to arrest thieves.

Locations of bike, e-bike and e-scooter thefts reported to UCPD since 2019

All years

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The interactive map above displays all bike, e-scooter and e-bike theft reported to UCPD from August 1, 2019 to Oct. 31, 2023. The locations with the most theft are the Recreational Sports Facility (100 thefts), Moffitt Library (80 thefts), Evans Hall (59 thefts), Dwinelle Hall (47 thefts) and Unit 2 Residence Hall (38 thefts).

Ben Tefry, a campus senior and mechanic at BicyCal — a campus organization that teaches Berkeley students, faculty and staff to fix and maintain their bikes — said he has seen numerous bike thefts around campus.

The ideal location for theft is one with low foot traffic and high numbers of bikes and scooters, Tefry said. However, it is typical that a location with many bikes will likely have more people.

Tefry has witnessed thefts outside of Moffitt Library, which has a high volume of bikes and scooters, attracting thieves despite its high foot traffic.

Thefts per hour of day

The line chart above visualizes the number of reported thefts that occurred at each hour of the day from Aug. 1, 2019 to Oct. 31, 2023, with reported times rounded down to the nearest hour.

Much like foot traffic, daylight is not always a successful deterrent against theft. The majority of thefts take place during daytime hours, with 64% of thefts reported to UCPD occurring between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The most popular hour was 4 p.m. with 123 thefts from September 2019 to November 2023.

Campus senior Adelaide Phillips had her e-scooter stolen in broad daylight. After working at Wurster Hall at noon, she said she returned to find her scooter missing and her bike lock snapped in half.

“Now I don't lock my scooter up anywhere,” Phillips said. “I bring it into studio because no one can get in there without keycard access. I only lock it outside if there are a lot of people around and if I have no other choice, or else it's coming with me into Trader Joe’s.”

There are a few particularly common types of theft, according to Tefry. The most straightforward type of theft is theft of entire bikes and scooters that have not been properly secured. This can occur either when owners don’t use locks or use them improperly, such as by locking the bike only to its own wheel and not the rack.

Theft of bike wheels and cutting through cable locks with bolt cutters are also relatively common, because they do not require power tools. Cutting through more effective locks with power tools is possible, but less common, especially during the day, Tefry added.

How can these types of theft be prevented? Tefry and White identified a few simple ways:

How sources say to protect your scooter or bike

  • Use U-Locks instead of cable locks
    • For bike owners, use a solid U-lock along with a cable to secure both the frame and wheels of the bike.
    • For scooter owners, use a U-lock “between the scooter stem and the deck” to secure the vehicle to the rack.
  • Replace bicycle “quick-release” skewers on wheels
  • Leave vehicles in visible, well-lit areas
  • Don’t leave vehicles out overnight or for extended periods
  • Keep a record of vehicle serial numbers

Tefry said bike owners only need to “spend a little bit of money” to protect against a thief without tools.

“Similar to how if you're running from a bear, you don't have to be faster than the bear; you just have to be faster than your friend,” Tefry said, suggesting thieves simply go for the easiest vehicle to steal.

Even with effective locks, vehicles can get stolen. So what happens after the fact?

Tefry noted that it is helpful for vehicles to be registered with UCPD in order to be tracked down.

Owners of vehicles, Westlie said, can register them at the UCPD front counter at 1 Sproul Hall on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. He noted that it’s helpful to register because it gives owners unique serial numbers for their vehicles and enters them into the department’s records.

However, Westlie said that scooters and bikes are not recovered in most cases, despite searching the area, looking at security camera footage, interviewing witnesses and tracking down any leads they can find.

Specifically, Westlie said, UCPD has recovered three percent of scooters and bicycles since September of 2019.

Tefry said he still hasn’t chosen to register his bike.

“As far as I know, the police go like 50%, but they're not putting in the ultimate necessary follow through to get your bike back,” Tefry alleged. “And I've never heard of the police finding anyone's bike. I've only heard of people finding their bikes themselves and then going to the police.”

Max Vink, a racer on the Cal Cycling Team, had his bike stolen last year. After discovering the listing for his stolen bike online, he set up a meeting with the seller and called in the police for support.

Vink said the seller was late for the meeting, and the police officers ended up leaving before he arrived. Vink ended up bluffing and telling him the police were right around the corner. The seller immediately gave the bike back.

Despite his experience, Vink said he doesn’t necessarily see a better policing strategy for bike and scooter thefts, especially not one that won’t be expensive for the city.

“Ultimately we live in a very expensive area and that’s going to incentivize people to want to make money,” he said.

Isabella Borkovic is a projects developer. Contact her at

Clara Brownstein is a projects developer. Contact her at

Shahan Nawaz, a former projects developer, contributed to this story.

About this story

This project was developed by the Projects Department at The Daily Californian.

Data for this project come from UCPD.

Questions, comments or corrections? Email

Code, data and text are open-source on GitHub.

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