UT police catching campus thieves with GPS bait bikes

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by Andy Pierrotti / KVUE.com

khou.com

Posted on May 14, 2013 at 11:45 PM

AUSTIN -- The University of Texas at Austin is employing a high tech tool to catch bike thieves.

According to city and University of Texas theft records, at least $2 million worth of bikes have been stolen in the past three and a half years. More than 2,000 bikes have been stolen in the past year, which is about one bike every four hours.

"I typically lose about one a month,” said Mark Mitchell, owner of Barton Springs Bike Rental across from Zilker Park.

Mitchell said he has had more than 100 bikes stolen from his business in the past few years.

University of Texas police Officer Ruth Jasso said her department takes bicycle theft very seriously. They are now using GPS technology to catch the crooks.

>> Click here for a map of bike thefts from 2009 to April 2013

Campus police lock bikes with hidden GPS devices in areas known for theft. When someone takes the bike, a computer program notifies police.

The GPS tool helps officers track and locate bike as the thief tried to get away.

Jasso said the bait bikes are working.

"We do have repeat offenders, but we're not seeing them as often as we used to," Jasso said.

Most bike thefts occur off campus in the Austin jurisdiction. A few years ago, Mitchell told Austin police that he would pay for bait bikes and the GPS technology if the city created its own program.

“I think it would cut down the rings in Austin and take them to other cities," Mitchell said.

Commander Jason Dusterhoft, of the Austin Police Department, said the city did have its own bait bike program a few years ago, but no one stole a [bait] bike.
Dusterhoft admitted the technology at the time wasn’t perfect.

"And that's not to say we can't try this again. I'd like to look at that and the feasibility of it. And in the end, it might be better to make joint partnerships,” he said.

Dusterhoft said he plans to reach out to campus police and meet with Mitchell about his offer.

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