Brookline Police Are Bagging Thieves Using a Decoy Bike Equipped with a GPS Tracker

The "bait bike" has led to several arrests, and helps the department figure out where the most bike thefts are taking place.

Bike thieves beware: Brookline Police are planting decoy rides in areas where theft is a persistent problem in order to arrest suspects trying to make off with a bicycle that doesn’t belong to them.

Known to the department as the “bait bike,” a series of arrests documented on the Brookline Police blog show that several alleged suspects fell for the trap in the last few months.

Police equipped a bike with a GPS-monitor and have been locking it up in parts of town where thefts have been on the rise. After leaving it in a desired location, police go about their daily routine, and wait to get notifications about the bike’s whereabouts once someone cuts the combination lock and starts to move it. The tracking system activates only when the bike becomes mobile, and alerts officers headquartered at the police station.

“The GPS can be programmed to activate on movement and a notification is sent via text message indicating that the bait bike is moving.  The Brookline Police Dispatch Center can then begin tracking the unit in real time,” according to department officials.

That’s when officers swoop in and make a bust.

The latest arrest happened on July 9, after the “bait bike” had been removed from a pole on Fuller Street. Officers watched four subjects on bicycles in the area of Harvard Street, near the location of the decoy. When police approached, the individuals fled, including one person on the “bait bike.” Officers were able to stop this subject after a brief pursuit, according to the report. The individual was placed under arrest for larceny over $250.

This was the third time in two months that baiting alleged criminals with the GPS-monitored bike led to an arrest.

In June, police arrested a suspect that made off with the tracker-equipped bike, and discovered he was carrying wire cutters. This was the first arrest made in association with the “bait bike.”

At that time, police vowed to continue tricking alleged thieves into stealing the bicycle, with hopes of putting a stop the persistent problem. “This deployment coupled with patrols should help reduce those numbers, get the word out we have lots of bait,” police said at the time of that arrest.

While the move sounds tricky, police insist it doesn’t cross the line when it comes to entrapment, according to the Brookline Tab.

Officers first started using the “bait bike” in 2012, after a spike in reported bike thefts, but it wasn’t very successful in helping them nab thieves. They picked up on the idea from “a few Midwestern colleges,” according to the report.