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Hoping that bike thieves take the bait

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My son told me from college earlier this week that some of his buddies saw two guys with a hacksaw trying to steal bikes from a bike rack outside his dorm about noon Sunday.

The guys and gals chased them off and called campus police, who dutifully took a report. All were surprised and amazed by the brazen attempt to steal bikes in broad daylight.

College campuses seem to be frequent targets for bike thieves; lots of bikes left around that are often unlocked or locked with an inexpensive cable lock. At many campuses, bike theft is the most frequent crime reported to police.

Browsing around the Internet, I see that most colleges recommend U-locks over cable locks, which are easily voided by bolt cutters. In fact, the campus police at my son's college sell reduced-rate U-locks to incoming freshmen.

Bait bikes

The campus police at University of Minnesota are being more pro-active. They've outfitted a couple of bikes with GPS tracking devices and monitor their whereabouts. Deputy Chief Chuck Miner told the Minnesota Daily:

“I do anticipate that once we start catching bike thieves via the bait
bike, word will spread through their community and they will take their
business elsewhere.”

While I've never heard of transmitter or GPS-equipped bait bicycles, apparently they've been around for awhile.


Security device maker Pegasus Technologies of Sacramento makes a so-called “bait bike.” It's a bicycle whose value exceeds the minimum amount needed to classify as a felony. It's fitted with a transmitter that's activated when the bike is stolen.

It seems to be effective. A three-day trial in Yuba City, California, a couple of years ago led to the arrest of 7 bike thieves. The Pegasus website also tells about a thief who, apparently realizing too late that he'd stolen a bait bike again, threw it in a swimming pool. Police located it, and him, anyway.

Stakeouts with low-tech bait bikes are effective too. In Port Ste. Lucie, Florida, last week, a cop put out a red bicycle in a high crime area and watched it from an unmarked car. Within a half hour someone came along and put it in the trunk of their car. It led to two arrests.

Prevent bike theft

Just on the off-chance you've never had your bike stolen or read about how to prevent bike theft, here are some tips:

– Always lock your bike. Always. If possible remove the front wheel, set it next to the rear wheel, and run the lock through the front and rear wheels and the bike rack.
– A U-lock is better than a cable lock. The bigger and thicker the U-lock, the longer it takes to get through it.
– If possible, park your bike next to one that isn't as well protected. The thieves will go after the other bike.
– Park and lock in a busy area, instead of someplace out of sight where a thief can be undetected. Still, don't expect passersby to stop an obvious bike thief.
– Remove the brand name, especially if it's a well-known, high quality bike. It won't hurt to make it look a little scruffy.
– Write down your serial number so you can report it to police if it is stolen. Consider joining the National Bike Registry.
– Good luck keeping your bike.

Read also: “Cross-country cyclist's bike stolen in San Francisco” (Cable-locked to a rack across the street from where he worked out in a gym)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.bikingbis.com/2009/09/24/hoping-that-bike-thieves-take-the-bait/

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