New ‘Bait Bike’ program debuts

 

Stealing bikes on campus will be a lot harder this school year. The UW-Whitewater campus police have installed a new “Bait Bike” program designed to catch potential bike thieves.

“It is absolutely amazing technology,” UW-Whitewater Police Chief Matthew Kiederlen said. “When you combine all this different stuff, there’s just no stopping it. It’s really an amazing tool.”

Campus police will use a combination of GPS and radio frequency technologies to track a “Bait Bike” set up to be stolen. If the bike is stolen, police can then track it using cell phones, tablets or any number of devices.

Kiederlen

They would then use a set of antennas on top of a squad car or other vehicle to triangulate the position of the “stolen” bike.

“The idea is to literally catch the person red handed, in possession of the bike,” Kiederlen said. “We will then do what we need to from there to rectify the situation.”

According to Kiederlen, the “Bait Bike” isn’t just one specific bicycle. It’s actually specific specialized equipment that is interchangeable to any number of different bikes.

“We could have someone take a picture of the one we have set up and an hour later have a whole different bike out there, and you’d never know it,” Kiederlen said. “We have what we believe is an outstanding system.”

One of the key persons in implementing this new program was Resident Hall Officer Stephen Hanekamp, Kiederlen said.

Kiederlen and Hanekamp said they were both unsatisfied with multiple statistics showing an increase in bike theft on campus the last couple of years, including the previous school year when a bike was stolen approximately every six days.

“We’ve been trying for a few years to figure out ways to curtail the bike theft that is rising on campus,” Hanekamp said. “We implemented bicycle registration, free of charge, at the police department which helps great, but you still get bikes stolen, and then you have to recover them.”

Unfortunately, the chances of recovering a stolen bicycle are pretty slim, Kiederlen said.

“We haven’t recovered very many at all,” Kiederlen said. “The reality is that a bicycle is one of the easiest things in the world (to steal). Someone takes it, spray paints it, and who’s ever going to look at it again? People just don’t pay that kind of attention.”

Hanekamp

Kiederlen said one of the main reasons bicycle theft occurs is because people don’t take appropriate precautions.

“The first thing I look at is people not securing their items properly,” Kiederlen said. “Now, that doesn’t give a thief an excuse, but there’s only one aspect of crime we can truly control and that’s the prevention aspect.”

The ability of a “Bait Bike” program to do exactly that, helping prevent the theft of bicycles, is what encouraged the UW-Whitewater police department to implement the system, Kiederlen said.

“It would be wonderful if we actually catch someone, but honestly if we never catch anybody but reduce our bike thefts by a decent percentage, I’ll be quite happy,” Kiederlen said. “The whole premise of this is to deter the theft from beginning in the first place.”

Kiederlen said they looked at several successful “Bait Bike” programs, including at UW-Madison, before beginning the process of installing the program at UW-Whitewater.

The next step, according to Kiederlen, was acquiring enough equipment and funding.

The campus police used part of their own budget and received donations of equipment from an anonymous source, and various funding from DLK Enterprises, Residence Hall Association and Residence Life.

“We received enough gifts and donations that the remainder that we needed, I was able to just take out of our regular budget,” Kiederlen said. “It’s phenomenal. Anytime you can do that, that’s just great.”

With the new system ready to debut, Hanekamp said he’s hopeful that getting the word out about these bait bikes existing will help stop theft and let students feel safer about bringing their bikes to campus.

Kiederlen said he couldn’t agree more.

“The greatest part of all of this is going to be getting the word out that we have it and letting that deterrent factor set in,” Kiederlen said. “That’s the greatest weapon we have, just getting someone to not even consider doing it because of the potential consequences.”

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