Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a cycling advocate, talks with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar at an Earth Day event last year. One of Blumenauers aides is among the victims of a string of recent bike thefts on the Capitol grounds.
A string of recent bike thefts on Capitol Hill has some staffers scared to ride to work.
Since April, eight bike thefts have been reported on the Capitol grounds. In the months of April and May over the past four years, only one bike theft was reported to the Capitol Police.
Although more staffers bike to work in warmer months, there has not been a corresponding increase of theft in the past, according to statistics from the Capitol Police.
From June to August of 2008, only one bike theft was reported to the Capitol Police. In those months of 2009, two bikes were reported stolen, and last summer, no bike thefts were reported.
The Capitol Police Criminal Investigation Division continues to run an active open investigation into the recent thefts, according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider. No arrests have been made in conjunction with the thefts.
Tyler Frisbee, legislative aide to Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), is one victim of the recent string of thefts. Her red Schwinn road bike was stolen from the G2 level of the Rayburn parking garage, where at least one other bike theft occurred.
While Frisbee’s bike was not locked the day it was stolen, at least one of the other missing bikes was secured with a U-lock resistant to bolt cutters.
The rack where Frisbee stored her bike is 50 feet from a security guard station. A security camera also watches the spot. Despite the security measures, bikes still disappear.
“It’s tough to figure out if they’re taking a bike that’s theirs or someone else’s,” Frisbee said.
It is not clear from security tapes how the thief or thieves enter the garage, according to Frisbee. A staffer would have clearance to the parking area, but any visitor to the building could enter an office building through the security gates and then ride the elevators to the garages.
“If this is a staffer on the Hill, that’s really sad,” she said. “If not, if it’s someone outside, they’ve figured out how to game the system very effectively and we need to figure out how to stop that.”
Hill staffers, many of whom ride to work, have noticed the uptick in thefts. At least one email chain has gone out to warn legislative assistants about the problem, Frisbee said.
“People are pretty nervous,” she said. “A lot of people are riding their bikes with the nicer weather. Especially if there’s someone cutting locks, it’s very worrisome. ... They’re kind of wondering, ‘How does this happen? What’s going on?’ It also shows a pretty scary security loophole.”
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