Campus Theft is Low, but Victims Feel the Pain

By Lichen Forster

Disaster struck for Anela Kupihe, a sophomore at UH Hilo, when her bicycle was stolen from the Hale Kehau bike rack in February 2021.

“I bought [it] with my own money,” Kupihe said. “I couldn’t go riding on my bike, and I had friends always asking to borrow [it].”

Bike rack at Hale Ikena dormsBike rack at Hale Ikena dorm. Photo by Allegra Diaz.

It is no secret that college students have limited financial resources, and in a town where reliable public transportation is scarce but great weather is abundant, bikes are an affordable alternative.

In June, UH Hilo junior Cole Baker experienced a similar loss when his motorcycle was stolen from the Hale Ikena bike parking lot around 2 a.m. “It was a 2019 Honda Grom, and it was one of my most favorite possessions,” Baker said. “I loved riding it, and it was a really fun bike.”

Kupihe’s friends, who first noticed her bike was missing, called Campus Security, as did the resident assistants (RAs) Baker notified. While both Kupihe and Baker recalled positive interactions with Campus Security guards, the guards’ efforts were ultimately fruitless. After months of waiting, neither student has recovered their stolen property.

“Campus Security showed up, and we called the police,” Baker said of his own case. “They were very helpful at addressing the issue after it happened, but I can’t help but to feel like more could have been done to prevent issues like this in the future.”

“We actually don’t receive what I would consider a high number of theft reports,” said Rick Murray, director of Campus Security at UH Hilo. “Mostly bicycles, which during the semester might average out to one each month.” The claim of low theft reports is consistent with all data available to the public, but that data does not tell the whole story. Campus Security guards don’t log the thefts of bicycles, laptops, or other commonly stolen items in their weekly updated UH Hilo Daily Public Crime Log. This log is required under the Clery Act, which mandates Campus Security to annually publish “crimes that occur on-campus, residence halls, non-campus and public property adjacent to the University Campus. But these crimes include murder, negligent homicide, forcible and non forcible sex offenses, robbery, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson, [...] hate crimes, weapons offenses, drug and alcohol use and arrests,” according to Campus Security’s website, quoting the Clery Act.

Motor vehicle theft is the only type of theft logged on the Daily Public Crime Log with a total of three recorded since August of 2020. Included in the Campus Security Crime Log was Baker's motorcycle, but not Kupihe’s bicycle theft.

To prevent theft, Murray suggests that items should never be left unattended, and dorms should always be locked if the resident is out. For those worried about their bike being stolen, Murray recommends investing in a good bike lock.

“Thieves will definitely target bikes that are unlocked or have locks that are easy to cut,” Murray said. The Campus Security director recommends individuals keep receipts and serial numbers, and engrave their name on their items when possible. This will help ensure victims’ items can be returned to them, in the event they are ultimately recovered by the authorities.

If You See Something, Say Something,” is the encouragement Campus Security gives UH Hilo campus community members. If there are other bystanders to a crime, do not assume other people will be the ones to take action. Get as much information as you can while also staying safe; information such as the suspect’s height, weight, sex, color, age, clothing, method and direction of travel will prove valuable to authorities. If a vehicle is involved, get its license plate number, make and model, color, and other identifying characteristics of the vehicle. Don’t get involved if you see a crime taking place. Instead, call Campus Security at (808) 974-7911 or 7911 from a campus phone, and give the operator your name, location, and details of the situation. Then follow the instructions given to you. Use your judgment in situations where 911 may be a safer option for all involved.

“Campus safety and security is everyone’s responsibility,” Murray said. After a reported theft, Campus Security guards can use security cameras located around campus to aid in returning the stolen possessions. This happens either by watching recorded information, or by watching in real-time, if there is sufficient need for it. “Security is not actively watching people through the cameras,” Murray said, adding, “Many of the cameras are very visible, and it is obvious where they are.”

Realizing their possessions will likely never be returned to them, Kupihe and Baker have taken protective positions on the matter. “Have a lock and a tracking device on it that’s not noticeable,” Kupihe advised. “I had a lock but they cut it, so I would double lock it, [and/or] have a tracking device.” “Don’t own a motorcycle,” Baker said. “The campus cannot guarantee the safety of your vehicle, and without full coverage on your vehicle, it’s just not worth the risk.”

Most common stolen items

  • Bikes
  • Laptops
  • Umbrellas
  • Things taken out and about by the owner
  • gold and jewels (if we ever took them outside)

How to protect yourself

  • Don't leave your things unattended
  • Invest in good bike locks
  • Keep receipts and serial numbers
  • Engrave your name on things
  • Keep door locked when out