Bicycle thieves target student workers

Bike Thefts

Dozens of bikes like this one were provided to area foreign student workers at a Destin United Methodist Church supper.

Jordan Swanson | The Log
Published: Friday, November 2, 2012 at 03:29 PM.

Bicycle theft is a crime of opportunity. And that opportunity looms large for thieves targeting Destin’s foreign student workers.

According to the IT Department at the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, there have been 79 stolen bicycles in Okaloosa County between March 1 and Sept. 26 of this year. The number of bicycle thefts in Destin during those months was 18.

But Cindy Wilson, who heads Others First Team outreach at Destin United Methodist Church, worries those statistics may not paint the whole picture. Wilson and the church hosted regular church suppers for the city’s many J-1 visa holding student workers. At the first dinner. the church gave away more than 70 bikes, locks, helmets and lights to the young adults who often rely on bicycle transportation to get to and from work.

“I received many calls from students whose bikes were stolen, asking for replacements. We found one of our bikes in the woods behind Winn-Dixie; I found an abandoned bike at the track by the elementary school,” Wilson said. “Generally, their bikes were stolen from their work location. Some were stolen from the driveway of their home.”

“I do know of one of the Chinese students who called 911 to report her bike stolen from her driveway when she located it at Big Kahunas — where she happened to work,” Wilson continued. “Sadly, it was stolen by another J-1 student.”

Of the 79 bikes stolen in Okaloosa County, 15 were recovered. But many more are never found.

“One evening I had two students frantically call me because their bikes were stolen from the Lighthouse restaurant,” she said.

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