Video: Using bait bikes – and twitter – to catch bike thieves


Theft In Action

Video screen capture of a bike theft in action. The suspect was immediately arrested.

San Francisco-area bike thieves be warned. Try lifting someone’s beloved two-wheeled steed and not only will you be damned for eternal life, you may end up in jail — and on twitter.

Meet officer Matt Friedman, the man behind the twitter handle @SFPDBikeTheft, and one of the architects of the Bay Area’s bait bike initiative. With bike theft in the city up 70 percent since 2006 (roughly one bike every three hours, according to Friedman) it was time for a new approach.

This has included the use of bait bikes, which are equipped with a hidden tracking system that alerts Friedman and his fellow officers that the bike has been tampered with. They then use a special tracking device to track down the bike — and the thief. Hidden cameras are sometimes used to capture video of the offense and the arrest. Friedman sometimes posts mug shots of repeat offenders on twitter.

Friedman, a bike rider himself, started the twitter account because he was frustrated that bike theft victims rarely filed police reports, tracked their bike’s serial number, or even claimed bikes from the San Francisco police departments, which has a large number of recovered bikes held in storage. Besides shaming thieves, he uses the account to tweet photos of crimes in action, recovered stolen bikes, and offer advice how to lock your bike and what to do if your bike is stolen.

For more on the program check out these videos by the New York Times and CBS This Morning.

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the / staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.

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