It isn’t ever wise to come between a Belgian and their bicycle, but thieves now have another reason to think twice before snatching a cyclist’s main method of transport.
Police in Ghent, where bike theft is particularly high, have planted “bait-bikes” equipped with GPS trackers throughout the city to lure would-be thieves. Once the bike is stolen, police are able to trace it to its location and apprehend the culprit.
Authorities are keeping quiet about the details of the programme in order to ensure its effectiveness, but the bikes are described as ordinary-looking and the data won’t just catch thieves, but also help identify patterns and hotspots for bike theft.
While bike theft has generally been down since COVID-19, there were 555 reports of stolen bicycles in Brussels alone in just the first half of last year.
Bait bikes are already in use in multiple cities across the world in which cycling is a popular method of getting around. Police have had success with them in London, Vancouver, and even Washington, D.C.
In one case in London, a stolen bait-bike was traced to a three-man operation that uncovered an additional 60 stolen bicycles, each worth up to €5,500.
The Ghent initiative began last year but experienced technical difficulties. These were resolved in November, and the programme has since seen success.
“Everything is working again,” Matto Langeraert, a spokesperson for the Ghent police, told VRT. “In nine days, 5 bikes were stolen and we were able to catch 4 of the thieves.”