University police arrested a serial bike thief outside of Prassel residence hall last Sunday morning, ending a long streak of bike thefts that have been plaguing students during the month of September.
TUPD officers John Rowse and David Estrada apprehended 39-year-old Christopher Dominguez after he failed to produce identification in the early morning hours last Sunday. He was booked and processed immediately because of an outstanding warrant produce identification and his failure to produce identification.
“We’re happy that we were able to get him,” said Pete Perez, assistant chief of police. “Sometimes you get lucky. Our diligence helped pay off.”
Perez described a recent change in officers’ patrol strategy to help catch the suspect. According to Perez, officers were given extra shifts and instructed to patrol campus bike racks in plain clothes so they drew as little attention to themselves as police officers.
“Officers John Rowse and David Estrada were on assignment that night near the Prassel residence hall,” Perez said. “The suspect had all of the descriptions from the video tape. From there, we all came down on him. He didn’t know what hit him. He had the bolt cutters, the locks – you name it.”
The first recorded incident of bike thefts occurred on Sept. 4, after which TUPD officials checked with other local universities asking for information on reported bike thefts. UTSA reported a sharp increase in bike thefts in the month of August and early September. After bike thefts rapidly increased on campus, TUPD assigned officers to patrol those bike racks that were heavily affected by the bike thief.
Despite Dominguez’s arrest, the question remains whether affected students can retrieve their bikes.
“It depends,” Perez said, “on whether or not the bikes are registered with TUPD.”
Bikes not registered have a smaller likelihood of being found and returned.
“Right now we’re working on the case against him,” Perez said. “Once we get all that information together, we’ll look to see if we could identify which bikes he took [from his possession]. A lot of the time, if we don’t have a serial number, it’s hard.”
Some affected students felt upset because of the bike thefts, and cited cable locks as being one of the reasons their bikes were stolen.
“I used a dinky cable combination lock,” said Taylor Piske, a sophomore. “I did not use a U-lock. When I first realized that my bike was gone, I was looking down from my balcony. It wasn’t there. I went down to the bike rack and the guy left the cut lock by the rack.”
Sophomore Ciara Bergin shared the same cable lock with Piske outside of Prassel. Her bike was stolen as well.
“I was walking back at night and saw that TUPD was interviewing Annelise DeJong because she’d just had her bike stolen,” Bergin said. “I thought, “˜wow, that sucks,’ and looked over for my bike. It was gone.”
Perez said that officers will continue to patrol bike racks on campus, as thieves often work in groups, but that students can help prevent thefts by reporting suspicious activity. The crime prevention tip line is 210-999-7821.
“Hopefully it doesn’t happen again,” Perez said. “But the main thing I want to get out is that the students are the eyes and ears of the campus. Let us know; call us. If you see something that doesn’t look right, call us and we’ll check it out, even if it’s nothing. That’s fine.”