Attempting to reduce the most frequently committed campus crime, the UC Police Dept. is cracking down on bike theft with a high-tech strategy that involves decoy bicycles equipped with hidden GPS tracking devices.
According to spokesperson Sgt. Matt Bowman, the department installed at least one decoy bicycle on or near campus this quarter. The bicycle(s) were positioned at the beginning of this quarter and will be moved between various bike racks throughout the project’s span. UCPD collaborated with B.I.K.E.S. —the Associated Students bike committee — and Community Service Organization on the project.
Sgt. Bowman said the operation is the latest development in a stringent crackdown on bike theft.
“In the 12 years I’ve been here, it always remains the most common occurring crime in our jurisdiction,” Bowman said. “We’re really excited that we partnered with the A.S. bike committee to purchase a GPS tracking unit that we can mount on the bike and trace [the thieves] home and arrest them there.”
According to Bowman, stealing a bike — even a decoy — constitutes a felony.
“The bike you’re about to steal just may be our GPS bike,” Bowman said. “We do a good job of hiding [the GPS].”
Additionally, Bowman said the random nature and rampant occurrence of bike theft makes the crime difficult to prosecute.
“It is still the most prolific crime that happens all over campus and all over I.V. with high-end bikes and ones of much less value,” Bowman said. “It is sometimes done by organized people that obviously come in and work our community and sometimes by the random drunk who doesn’t want to walk back to the residence halls.”
Many students, including Kyle Odom, a first-year physics major, have felt the effects of widespread bike theft firsthand.
“Last week I searched the racks for like five minutes after my math class before I realized [my bike] had been stolen,” Odom said. “I had to walk all the way back to [Santa Catalina] and I’ll probably have to walk to all of my classes until I can somehow replace it.”
While some bikes are snatched simply because they are left unlocked, others are meticulously stolen piece by piece, with thieves often leaving only the front wheel of a bicycle locked to a rack.
According A.S. Bike Shop mechanic Dylan Lay, a fourth-year art major, customers frequently come in with segments of their bicycles to restore parts.
“A lot of our daily repairs are simple reconstructions from the disasters of victims’ stolen properties,” Lay said. “We fix the bikes, but as for confidence in society, I would say [victims] need to ask a bigger shop for that.”