Police in San Francisco have started using technological trick to catch bike thieves in the Bay area. They are tagging expensive bikes with hidden tracking devices then tracking down the culprits.
A small team within the San Francisco Police Department is using the modern twist on catching crooks by using real-time GPS transponders, the same kind of tech you'd find in a smartphone, to track the thieves once they've pedaled off into the sunset.
The bicycles, which exist for the sole purpose of be stolen, are locked up, inevitably nabbed, then traced down within minutes of their disappearance. The photographs of stolen bikes and the guilty parties can be posted to Twitter at the handle @SFPDBikeTheft. Officer Friedman is the head of the department’s de facto anti-bike-theft unit, described one recent success to the New York Times:
"Recently, for example, a thief took a $1,500 bicycle from outside a train stop and pedaled off into the sunset. But 30 minutes later... the team tracked the bike and converged on the rider at a park."
The police sting ensures the thieves end up with a felony charge by making sure they bikes they use are expensive enough to trigger that legal threshold. Some have questioned whether the program simply entraps the poor, the program has also received waves of support from locals.
I am loving the fact that SF riders are now snapping photos of bike thieves/suspect bike thieves - please keep it up folks!— SBR San Francisco (@stolenbikessfo) May 24, 2014
Last summer, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved $75,000 to support local efforts against bike theft — including money for bait bikes and tracking equipment — and the effort got into full swing this year, according to the Times.
San Francisco's bike theft problem has soared in recent years (up 70 percent from 2006 to 2012, when roughly 4,035 bicycles were taken). But the bait bike program isn't unique to San Francisco; various cities and college campuses have also seen a bump in bicycle theft and have started using the tracking programs as a crime deterrent.
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.