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Thieves Beware: UW-Madison Cops Plant ‘Bait Bikes’

Kristian Ovaska at Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.)Colleges across the U.S. are encouraging students to ditch their cars and ride bikes instead, but the University of Wisconsin-Madison is doing those efforts one better … by planting GPS (global positioning system)-equipped “bait bikes” around campus to nab would-be bike thieves.

Starting last May, UW-Madison police started locating the GPS-equipped bikes in places where previous bike thefts have occurred. When one of those bikes starts moving, cops know they’ve got a likely thief on the move. They can follow the bike’s movements on their computers, then dispatch officers to the scene to catch the culprit.

So far, the bait bike program seems to be working. From January of 2007 through May 2008, UW-Madison police tallied 100 bike thefts, but only one arrest. Since May, those arrest figures have gone up to 16.

“We’re hopeful that this piece of technology can help us deter thieves,” said police sergeant Jason Whitney. “Madison is one of the best biking cities in the world. We want students to have peace of mind knowing that if they bring a bike here, they will leave with it at the end of the school year.”

With the help of additional GPS purchases and bike donations from a local business, Budget Bikes, UW-Madison police hope to keep building their population of bait bikes on campus. They’re also handing out stickers that students can put on their own bikes saying, “This could be a Bait Bike.”

Caveat ereptor.