San Francisco police gained some notoriety last year when a New York Times article reported on their "bike bait" tactics, attaching GPS technology to expensive bikes and then arresting the thief when the bike is inevitably stolen. At UC Berkeley, a dozen or so miles away from San Francisco, campus police have implemented similar tactics with extreme efficacy, according to The Daily Californian.
According to a UCPD press release, bike theft has dipped 45 percent and 31 bike thieves have been arrested since the program started in January.
The Daily Cal reports that campus police are working with Pegasus Technologies, who have a complex bike tracking system. From the company's website:
The bait bike is left unattended in the targeted area and the transmitter is armed. Once the bike is stolen, the hidden transmitter is automatically activated and begins sending its silent tracking signal. The Alert Monitor, installed within reception range of the transmitter, receives the transmitter's signal and sends a message to a predetermined pager or cell phone. The bait bike can now be tracked and located using the Mobile Tracking and Hand-Held Receivers. Once the stolen bicycle is located, suspects may be further identified by checking for the presence of Clue Spray.
The Daily Cal mentions a fear of entrapment from some, but this fear appears to be unfounded. In California, entrapment "refers to a situation where a 'normally law abiding person' is induced to commit a crime that he/she otherwise would not have committed." Because, presumably, the thefts would occur regardless of whether it's a police-planted bike or not, this would not be a case of entrapment.
Anyway, this is good news for bike riders of Berkeley, a group of stellar individuals that includes me.
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.