“Bait Bike” Program Helps Public Safety Catch Thieves
While students spent this school year rushing to and from classes, Pacific’s Department of Public Safety spent the past eight months hard at work protecting students and their belongings.
The officers at Public Safety are a proactive group who have gotten creative when it comes to curbing crime at Pacific. Perhaps the best display of that creativity is the Department’s response to one of the most common issues plaguing campus over the years: bike theft.
A 26-year veteran of the force, Lieutenant Wayne Germann of Public Safety told The Pacifican that officers could do very little about bike theft for a long time.
“It’s been very hard to have a progressive and proactive approach to bike theft because we have so many bike racks on campus that we can’t put enough people or enough cameras around to actually protect the bikes,” Germann said. “So either students have to be taught how to lock them up properly, so people can’t steal them, or we have to take other measures.”
One of the other measures Germann is referring to is something called the “bait bike” program. Spearheaded by Sergeant Nick DeMuth, this program addresses the bike theft problem by leading officers directly to the thieves themselves. Officers place decoy bikes around campus that contain GPS tracking devices, then simply wait for the bikes to be stolen.
“[We] take the bike out to an area where it’s known bikes are being stolen, or parts of bikes are being stolen, and purposely lock it up with a cable lock, which is one of the easiest locking mechanisms to cut and steal the bike,” Germann said. “The moment that somebody comes over and touches the cable lock… it will set off the GPS. Then it flashes up onto the screen for dispatch, which tells them where the bike is at, where it’s going, and so forth.”
Dispatch will then begin sending officers to the location of the bike to place the suspect under arrest.
The program has been in place for approximately two years, since Sergeant DeMuth learned about it from a department in the Las Vegas area. DeMuth knew it would be perfect for Pacific, and put in a request to take one of the bikes in the evidence room and turn it into a “bait bike.”
“Then he ordered the GPS unit and stuck it in the seat, and the rest was history. We were just knockin’ the heck out of them,” Germann said.
As Germann indicated, bike thefts on campus have dropped dramatically thanks to the program. Whereas Public Safety used to see about two bikes stolen every week, they will now go months without an incident.
“Sergeant DeMuth counted up all the bikes that we were able to save from arresting the suspects using this ‘bait bike’ system, and depending on the value of the bike that was stolen, we saved the campus community about $24,000 through the first year,” Germann said.
The program has clearly been a great investment for the department. The GPS unit cost around $1,000, as did an additional sonar gadget used to track down the thieves in the case that the GPS cannot reach the satellites.
“Before we got this program we literally could almost do nothing about stolen bikes on campus… Now that we’ve been arresting these guys as they’ve been coming on campus and stealing the bikes, the word has gotten out, and they’re not coming back to campus anymore; they’re going over to Delta and other places.”
Rebecca Aguilar ’18 regularly rides her bike around campus and was happy to hear that Public Safety is successfully deterring thieves.
“I think [the ‘bait bike’ program] is a good way to lower the risk of getting your bike stolen. I’m glad that the thieves aren’t coming back,” she said.
Aguilar personally knows two people who have had parts of their bikes stolen in previous years, and she said that the program makes her feel more comfortable around campus as a bicyclist.
Lieutenant Germann told The Pacifican that students can be diligent in preventing themselves from being victimized.
“With the bikes, always use a U-lock to lock up your bike,” he said.
Public Safety actually gives away dozens of U-locks at the beginning of each school year. While they do not have any left right now, they will be restocked when the fall semester comes around.
“If you can, get detachable tires, so you can detach one of the tires and put it up front with the other tires. Then you can use the U-lock to get both the tires and the frame, that always works really well,” Germann added.
“As far as students’ vehicles, it’s very important to never leave anything out in the open where people can see it. Backpacks, computers, leather jackets… they will literally break into your car to take $5 if they see it sitting in the center console. So just don’t leave anything out in the open in the vehicle.”
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