'Bait bikes' considered as way to catch bicycle thieves

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson, as a cycling city, attracts its share of bike thieves.

A new method of catching potential bicycle thieves has caught the attention of bicycle-riding advocates in Tucson.

In its regular meeting Thursday night, a subcommittee of the Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee discussed the possibility of using "bait bikes" as a way to catch thieves.

It works by placing a hidden GPS tracking device in a bike, which is then used by law enforcement to catch thieves.

Law enforcement in San Francisco has already been using bait bikes, but GPS is not yet used by Tucson Police or the University of Arizona Police to look for bicycle thieves.

The UA campus has some of the highest rates of bicycle thefts in the city, with a total of 196 reported thefts in 2013. 14 bicycle thefts were reported to UAPD in May of this year, with 29 reported on February.

UAPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Filbert Barrera said officers have used the "watch and wait" method in the past to catch potential bike thieves and expect to use this option in the future.

A bicycle that is vulnerable to theft -- without a lock, for example -- is placed in the open while officers watch and wait for a thief to take it.

Sgt. Barrera said UAPD has used bicycles obtained from the UA Parking and Transportation Department, which collects bikes that have been abandoned and not retrieved after a 45-day notice.

Members of the Tucson BAC said they will write a letter to UAPD and Tucson Police about the "bait bike" option and hope to draft a plan by the end of the summer.

Such an operation would be conducted by police and would require funding, according to BAC members.  

"We're going to research what we're going to do with finances, with grant money to make this happen," BAC chair Collin Forbes said.

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