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To Catch a (Bike) Thief

"Bike bait" program uses GPS technology to track stolen property

Ah, bike-riding! Great for your health, great for the environment and the fastest mode of short-haul city travel. But, in addition to careless car-door openers, a persistent nemesis haunts urban cyclists: the bike thief.

Enter Bike Bait: a pilot program launched on St. George Campus in September. Bike theft is one of the most reported crimes on campus, according to U of T police, occurring at the rate of two or three per week. Since introducing the program, police have seen a decrease in this rate and have laid several charges, including four in a single day.

Bike Bait works just like you might guess: an undisclosed number of bicycles (the bait) are planted around campus with a “very, very well-hidden” GPS (or global positioning system) beacon, says program co-ordinator Cpl. Peter Franchi.This beacon allows police to track the bike – and reel in the crook. U of T is the second Canadian university to implement the program, which is modelled after a Victoria Police Department initiative that reduced thefts by almost 20 per cent in six months. U of T’s other campuses and the City of Toronto are both watching the program closely. “Depending on our success,” says Cpl. Franchi,“others may adopt the program.”

U of T police are also launching a “Stop Theft” program for bikes – much like the theft-deterrent registry system for laptops and other electronic devices – which uses metal plates and permanent tattoos to diminish black-market value. University staff, students, faculty and alumni will be able to register their items for $20 each. Ride on!

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