Columbia and the University of South Carolina campus are missing permanent bike rack fixtures in their moped parking spots. Without them, the growing number of moped owners may not be able to chain their vehicles, leaving the bikes at a greater risk of theft.
Between one and three mopeds are stolen a month during the school year, USC Police Department Capt. Eric Grabski said. Campus crime logs show moped larceny was reported three times in the past four weeks. Police closed two cases and arrested three individuals in August.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got more students than we ever had, and I think people are riding mopeds more than they ever have,” Grabski said. “I know there are more mopeds than there are legitimate spaces to park them in.”
USC students who have fallen victim to moped theft said they are concerned about the lack of places to chain their bikes to keep them secure.
Student Mike Cirio’s moped was stolen last Monday between the Greek Village and the Granby Mills apartments. Two years ago, Cirio’s roommate was also a victim of moped theft in the same location. Cirio said the lack of places to chain his moped in Columbia was “annoying.”
“The thing was, I didn’t chain mine unless I thought it was in a place where it would get stolen,” Cirio said. “Obviously, that didn’t work out well.”
Maeve Smith’s moped was stolen outside the Alpha Gamma Delta house at USC in September 2021.
“There’s dozens of these spots on campus where there is space for mopeds, but nothing to chain the bike to,” Smith said.
Without access to bike racks, some moped owners use the front wheel lock to keep their vehicle in place. But that often isn’t enough to prevent a theft.
“People can just snap the wheel lock and walk away,” Smith said.
That’s exactly what happened to Smith’s moped. According to camera footage from USC police, a man in a leather jacket took her bike after breaking the wheel lock.
“A big guy just sat on mine and then, boom, snapped it,” Smith said.
Almost two months later, campus police told Smith her $1,800 moped had been recovered. She drove to a detention center in Lexington County to fill out paperwork, then spent $180 to retrieve it from an impound garage and another $500 on repairs.
Secure locking points for mopeds should be cemented to the ground or difficult to move, according to local moped dealers. A spokesperson from Hawg Scooters recommends a heavy-duty chain lock or a disc brake lock with alarms.
USC’s Grabski recommends moped owners “get strategic” to keep their vehicles safe. Mopeds take time to steal. Thieves need to factor in the time it takes to get the moped into a vehicle or manipulate it to get it started. They’re far less likely to do that in front of a camera, Grabski said.
“Choose a parking space that’s near a camera or a call box and in a well-lit area,” Grabski said. “If you can, legally secure a moped to some sort of object and lock the steering column.”
The RAVE Guardian app is a safety app that connects students directly to campus police during an emergency. The app is a beneficial tool to report suspicious activity that could be a moped theft, Grabski said.
Since Smith’s moped was recovered by police, she is careful to use chains to protect her bike. But not all owners can do the same. Until moped parking spaces with permanent bike lock fixtures increase, moped owners may continue to compete for secure spots to park their vehicle while unattended.
Grabski hopes to approach USC parking services about the problem. Parking officials did not immediately respond for comment.
Moped parking spaces on campus are missing one key thing: a place to chain your bike. Photo by Leah DeFreitas.
Greek Village security cameras showed a suspect walking with Smith’s moped at 4 a.m. Image provided by USCPD.
Smith celebrates her recovered moped outside a prison in Lexington County. Photo provided by Maeve Smith.
Smith points to damage left on her moped after it was stolen. Photo by Leah DeFreitas.