Bicycle thieves now need to be more wary of which bikes they choose to poach, as campus police at UC Irvine are now better able to locate and arrest those stealing bikes from the community thanks to an innovative decoy-based system.
BAIT (Bike Anti-Theft Instantaneous Tracking) bikes are bicycles with concealed GPS devices that allow police to track down and arrest would-be thieves. When a bicycle is taken, a police dispatcher is alerted through an email or text, who then directs on-duty officers to the thief’s location.
“We’ll see certain areas in the housing whether it be in VDC or Arroyo that bicycles are being stolen,” said Lieutenant Joe Reiss. “We see this pattern start and we start placing the BAIT bikes strategically out there where the bike thefts are occurring because there’s a greater likelihood we’re going to catch a person because of that.”
The BAIT Bike system was developed in collaboration between UCIPD and the UCI Transportation and Distribution Services Department to combat bicycle thefts back in early 2010 as part of the Bicycle Education and Enforcement Program (B.E.E.P.).
Since first implementing the system, the bike bait system has led to numerous arrests, with most of arrestees unaffiliated with UCI. Because the cost of installing a GPS system on the bike is $1200, culprits caught stealing are charged with felonies. In California, grand theft is committed when the value of stolen property exceeds $950.
In 2011, $89,762’s worth of bicycles was stolen, which accounted for 30% of all stolen property on campus. That figure has since dropped down to $28,210 in 2014, a mere 3.5% of the total amount of stolen property.
In addition to the bike bait program, UCI police have supplemented their efforts to catch bicycle thieves with a multitude of other efforts as well, such as posting photos of repeat bicycle theft suspects and encouraging students to report any suspicious sightings.
“The awareness on campus, we started getting more phone calls by students in particular that were seeing suspicious individuals on campus and they started calling us,” said Liutenant Reiss. “I think it’s because we started getting more word out on the problem, and they became more engaged and involved, and helping us go after thieves.”
UCIPD has also worked in conjunction with Orange County Probation to conduct periodic probation checks of known bicycle thieves on probation and parole. To share information on known thieves, a joint bicycle task force has also been formed with the PD of surrounding cities where bike thefts are also prominent (Irvine, Newport, and Huntington).
On top of lowering the amount of bike thefts, campus police have gained headway in the retrieval of stolen bicycles. After recovering only 7 percent of all stolen bicycles in 2013, UCI police recovered 19 percent in 2014 thanks largely to the campaigns that promoted the proper use of effective bicycle locks and encouraged students to register their bikes.
Due to these efforts, only 61 bikes were stolen at UCI in 2014, down 70% from the 201 bikes stolen in 2011.