Thieves target MSU students’ mopeds

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Student walking past moped outside University Village, located in South Neighborhood. This is where the majority of moped thefts are reported.

Brandy Muz

Student walking past moped outside University Village, located in South Neighborhood. This is where the majority of moped thefts are reported.

For the past few years, mopeds have consistently been taken from Michigan State’s campus.
Capt. Dan Munford of the Community Engagement Unit with the MSU Police and Public Safety Department says moped have always been stolen on campus, but in the past few years, thefts have increased along with the number of mopeds on campus.

One student with firsthand experience with moped theft is Drew Goretzka, a senior at MSU, whose moped was stolen in the fall of 2021. Goretzka bought his second moped, which he named Zippy 2.0, the summer before his sophomore year.

Students walk past a group of mopeds situated outside of Mayo Hall.

Brandy Muz

Students walk past a group of mopeds outside Mayo Hall.

“I don’t really know what the previous owner did to it, but I tell you, it was much faster than your average moped, and it was much louder than your average moped …

“I loved it. It was definitely not in pristine condition. It definitely felt like it was going to fall apart at any moment, but it never did, thank God.”

Drew Goretzka

Despite Zippy’s less than ideal condition, it was stolen from Ramp #5 on Trowbridge Road, right across from the MSU Police Department. Goretzka was in class in the Communication Arts & Sciences building when it was taken.

“I walked out of class looking around basically the whole campus to make sure I wasn’t stupid,” Goretzka said.

“I walked into the police station initially to see if their camera could tell me who stole it. They were just kind of like, ‘hey, we’ll keep looking for it.’ They said they’d call me if they ended up finding it.”

Goretzka said he locked his moped with a cable bike lock. Munford recommends Kryptonite or U-lock bike locks to discourage theft.

“[Mopeds] are taken because they’re easy to steal,” Munford said, “their ignition pieces are out in the open, all you have to do is break a piece of plastic and disconnect some wires and you’re able to leave.”

Sophomore Aaron Amidon follows Munford’s safety recommendations and said he isn’t worried about his moped being stolen.

“I have a really large chain for mine,” Amidon says. “Mine is always locked up better than the person next to me.”

Most moped thefts on campus occur in the western part of campus, where the City of Lansing borders MSU, says Munford. Additionally, most mopeds reported missing from MSU are recovered in south and west Lansing.

Map of MSU's main campus, circled is the area in which the most thefts occur.

Brandy Muz

Map of MSU’s main campus, circled is the area in which the most thefts occur.

“Some of these [stolen mopeds] are being brought into chop shops and being dismantled, and then recreated and sold out with different vin numbers and serial numbers on them, which doesn’t make them traceable as stolen,” said Munford. The City of Lansing Police and MSU Police have broken up two chop shops in the past two years, and in those they recovered 40-50 mopeds.

MSU Police used to notify students via text or email every time a moped was reported missing, but have reduced the number of cases they send out notifications for.

“You’ve probably seen the decrease in the timely warning notifications, we changed that based on recommendations,” said Munford. MSU Police will send out emails and social media posts about consistent moped thefts, not for individual thefts.

Sarah Baker, a senior at Michigan State, remembers the many notifications she’s gotten about moped theft in her time at MSU.

“I’ve gotten so many emails about moped theft over the years,” Baker said. “They’re excessive at some points, but they’re necessary I think. It’s wild to think of them all counted up, like, how many have been stolen after all this time?”

Munford says an average of 31 mopeds have been reported missing per year for the past three years. While some mopeds are taken to a chop shop for profit, others are taken for rides.

Delphina Yancho

“The recovery rates are pretty high, mainly because it’s almost like joyriding,” says Munford, “somebody comes and gets it, they drive it around, and they truly do not want to put gas in it, so when it runs out of gas, they just leave it where it runs out.”

MSU senior Patrick Trout’s stolen moped was recovered a couple weeks ago. Trout had reported the theft to East Lansing Police after it was stolen overnight.

“I usually try to lock it up, the one time I didn’t, that’s when it was stolen,” Trout said. “I had a late 7 p.m. class and it was raining later that day, so I asked my roommate to borrow their car to go to that class. I left my moped in the basement garage by where the car is parked. I told myself I’d come back downstairs and lock my moped up, but I’d forgotten.”

Trout says the police came to his apartment to get a statement and investigate the scene, “even though there wasn’t really much of a scene.”

His moped had been missing for about two to three months when it was found lying in a parking lot. The moped could only turn to the right when it was discovered, making it undrivable.

A moped sits knocked over in West Circle in the North neighborhood on campus.

Brandy Muz

A moped sits knocked in West Circle in the North Neighborhood on campus.

Trout did not have moped insurance, but that’s not uncommon, according to Melissa Williams of Peninsula Insurance Okemos.

“I think a lot of people don’t bother to insure them,” says Williams, but “at the end of the day, a small monthly payment makes it worth it if you have a claim or if it gets stolen. Huge peace of mind.”

With good driving records, a moped owner could get a full coverage plan for about $30-40 per month, says Williams. Weighing that against the potential cost of getting sued for an accident or having to buy a new moped, Williams considers that a good deal.

Goretzka’s Zippy 2.0 was found a month after he reported it missing by Goretzka himself. Goretzka was going door to door in Lansing to gauge public opinion on the election when he spotted Zippy in the front yard of a house, surrounded by several other mopeds. Goretzka called Lansing Police, who worked with MSU Police to recover the moped and return it to the MSU Police department where it was originally reported missing.

“I had a very long and embarrassing walk home because it didn’t run anymore,” Goretzka said, able to laugh at the incident. “I paid pretty much nothing for the Moped, and it got me a good story, so can’t complain too much, right?”

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