UW-Whitewater police invest in bait bikes

Bike thefts have gone down more than 70 percent, police say

Published On: Aug 21 2013 08:13:11 PM CDT   Updated On: Aug 21 2013 08:34:11 PM CDT
WHITEWATER, Wis. -

Most of UW-Whitewater's student body will return to campus at the end of this month and one problem police hope students won't have to deal with is bike thefts.

"You do hear about it a good amount of time. Especially now that I'm an RA, I hear about it pretty often from my residents," said third-year student Steven Hawkins.

UW-Whitewater senior Amy Sylvester said bike thefts are a big deal for students because most use their bikes to get to and from their classes.

"I actually remember this guy setting up a video camera pointing out his window so he could watch his bike because it kept getting stolen at the same time every day,โ€ said Sylvester.

Thanks to grants and a donation from the student government organization the UW-Whitewater Police Department purchased a tracking system and installed it in several "bait bikes.โ€ The system cost them about $4,000.

"We want to encourage students to lock their bikes and use them as transportation on campus. We don't want them to have that fear their bike could be stolen if the bring it here," said officer Steven Hanekamp.

Hanekamp said bike thefts have gone down more than 70 percent. Only seven bikes have disappeared from campus this year, which is a huge difference from two years ago when police received reports of at least one bike being stolen every week in 2011.

Police said most bike thefts happen between Thursday and Saturday night, and the specially outfitted bikes are helping cut down on thefts on campus.

The UW-Madison Police Department uses the same bikes as bait so News3 cameras weren't allowed to show you what they look like but Hanekamp said the bikes have GPS and emit a radio frequency.

Hanekamp said if one of the bait bikes is moved they can track it several miles. He said most of the time they can find the bait bikes in about 10 minutes.

"It will alert us if the bike is being taken or moved, and we're able to track that bike down and arrest the perpetrator,โ€ said Hanekamp.

The bait bikes are randomly put at locations throughout the campus. Neither of the police departmentโ€™s bait bikes have ever been taken but they credit the decoys with deterring potential thieves.

"I think just knowing about the program word of mouth, knowing that it's out there, prevents, makes them think twice, makes anybody think twice about taking a bike," said Hanekamp.

He said every student who uses a bike needs to put a U-lock on their back-to-school shopping list. UW-Whitewater offers bike storage lockers for rent for $50 for the whole year. They also encourage students to register their bike with the police department so if it is stolen officers know how to contact them if they find it.