Dutch fight bicycle theft with GPS

Police use ‘bait bikes’ to catch thieves

Police in Amersfoort, a city in the Netherlands plagued with high levels of bicycle theft, are leaving out bikes equipped with hidden trackers to catch thieves.

"Bicycle theft is a type of criminality that often goes unpunished," police spokeswoman Cornelie Hogeveen said of the project in the central Dutch city, which had a population of 144,858 and suffered 900 bicycle thefts in 2010– 10 percent of the total reported crimes.

In a six-month pilot project that started last December, so-called "bait bikes" are being placed in different spots around town, "sometimes locked and sometimes not," said a police statement.

The lures "look just like normal bikes", according to Hogeveen; whenever a bike is removed, the police pick up its GPS signal and start a trace. "Sometimes the thief is already gone, sometimes we find other stolen bikes," she said. "It's a form of criminality that affects many in the Netherlands," she added. "Not only do they risk having their bikes stolen, but also buying a stolen bike."

The Netherlands, which counts an estimated 18 million bicycles for 16.5 million inhabitants, registered a total of 515,000 bicycle thefts in 2009, according to AVC, an organisation that tracks vehicle theft statistics.

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