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Brookline cops using 'bait bike' to catch thieves

Posted by Brock Parker  August 14, 2013 04:19 PM

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Police in Brookline are racking up arrests of bicycle thieves using a "Bait Bike" equipped with a GPS tracker and a system that notifies police when the two-wheeler is moved.

baitbike.jpgPolice park the bike in spots where bicycle thefts are being reported, and the GPS tracker then turns on using a motion sensor when a thief takes the bait, according to Brookline Police.

“If you looked at the bike, it’s a regular bike--you’d never know,” said Brookline Police Lt. Derek Hayes.

Hayes, who used to head the Brookline Police Department’s bicycle unit, said the bait bike was first used by the department last year and is being used more intensely this summer.

Police said the bike has led to the arrest of eight would-be-thieves, including the arrest of two men on Aug. 4 after they cut the bike from a pole on Beacon Street.

The town has between 60 to 80 bicycle thefts reported each year, Hayes said, and many more probably go unreported.

Hayes said he was trying to find a way to combat the bike thefts when he read about a university in the mid-west that was using GPS trackers to catch bicycle thieves and he wanted to give the idea a try in Brookline.

Without describing the bait bike in too much detail, Hayes said police are using a bike with an estimated value of about $800, and usually use a lock that thieves must cut. When they move the bike, the motion sensor goes off and the bike sends emails and texts messages to police and dispatchers notifying them that the bike is on the move.

Police can then log onto a website to find the bike and the thieves, Hayes said.
“It’s been stolen four times in the past two months,” he said.

Hayes said he doesn’t know of any other departments in the Boston area using a bait bike, but he has begun receiving inquiries from other departments about how it works.

Brookline Police have also begun handing out stickers to cyclists that say “This Could Be A Bait Bike” and can be placed on their bikes as a deterrent to thieves. Hayes said U-locks tend the be the most effective locks for preventing theft and police also suggest using a combination of U-locks and cable locks to maximize protection.

--brock.globe@gmail.com

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