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‘U’ Campus Police Catch Thief With GPS Bait Bike

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Bicycle thieves beware: the University of Minnesota is targeting you.

With the campus all torn up from construction, there are more bikes at the U of M than ever before. In fact, they just opened a new bike center to help all the two-wheel commuters. But they’re also turning to technology to help protect them from thieves.

The University of Minnesota is the home of the Gophers and thousands of bikes. There are more than 6,000 places to park them, meaning 6,000 targets for thieves.

“It’s kind of scary to think that it could get stolen,” said Freshman Melissa Crawford.

“I’ve had my wheels stolen before,” said Senior Jill Goslinga. “And that’s kind of expensive, having to replace those.”

In fact, bikes are the biggest theft problem on campus with 127 cases reported since Jan. 1.

So police turned to technology to fight back by planting a special bait bike in one of those jam-packed racks.

“There’s a sensor in the device that will go off if the bike’s being moved at all,” said Deputy Chief Chuck Miner with the University of Minnesota Police Department.

When that alarm goes off, police turn to the 2,000 security cameras on campus to watch the bike and the on-board GPS to track it. The combination worked perfectly on Sept. 24 for their first arrest.

“The bad guy got only within about a half-a-block before officers were able to find him, stop him and arrest him,” said Miner.

In many ways, those eyes in the sky are just as important as the bait bike. They’ve been responsible for other arrests, all on their own.

“We have been able to catch other bike thieves in that manner just by use of the cameras and watching for bad guys,” he said.

Police say the best way to protect your own bike is to use a big U-style lock, not the cable locks, which are easier to cut with bolt cutters. The new Campus Bike Center also offers a locked parking lot for members that can only be accessed with a card key.

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