Bait Bikes

To discourage bike theft and to promote secure locking procedures of bicycles, Campus Police has instituted the “Bait Bike” program. Bait bikes are equipped with GPS units that help police catch people trying to steal bicycles around campus. Photo by Camilah Jennings

Bike theft has been a common crime on college campuses across the United States, and NC State has not been an exception. Complaints of bike theft around Raleigh are commonly found on Facebook pages and other social media sites. Sergeant Christopher Hopkins from the NC State University Police Department addresses some trends and prevention methods for campus.

Bike theft on campus typically happens for several reasons, according to Hopkins. He notes that NC State is in the middle of a city and is not a closed campus. This means that people from the local area have access to campus and anything left in the open. 

“A lot of time, [the thief’s] friends may be using bicycles to get around, and they don’t have one, and they want to go with their friends,” Hopkins said. “They can’t go buy one, so the easiest thing is to go grab one.” 

Major Ian Kendrick, a member of the campus police’s support services, said there are some monetary benefits to stealing bikes.

“Sometimes people will take them and turn them over to pawn shops to get some money because they need the money,” Kendrick said.

Hopkins pointed out that most of the bike thefts on campus are not done by students because the chances of being caught are a lot higher. 

“It definitely happens, but it’s not frequent,” Hopkins said. “They might not be motivated to do so because they live on campus, and they have to steal a bicycle and park in front of their dorm, the chances of you being caught is much higher.”

Hopkins said bikes are a popular target because they are a decent source of cash and transportation and are usually left a lot less supervised or protected than items such as cars. 

The NC State police department has recognized this ongoing problem and plans to take several steps to prevent and help recover stolen bikes. 

According to Kendrick, one strategy for catching bike thieves is known as bait bikes. Bait bikes are bikes purchased by the campus police that have GPS trackers in them and are strategically placed throughout campus. They allow the police to track the bikes if stolen and help campus police catch thieves. 

“We actually had a lot of success with it, and we are actually still having some success with it in catching people that steal our bikes,” Kendrick said.

Another useful deterrent strategy is the placement of signs near bike racks warning people that there are bait bikes placed around campus, Kendrick said. The goal of this strategy is to deter people from stealing a bike by reminding them that the NC State police can find them.

Finally, campus police have been making an active effort to educate students on ways they can protect their belongings at events such as new student orientation. 

One of the tips they suggest is for students to leave their bike at home if it’s not being regularly used. A majority of bike thefts happen during the summer when people are not around to look after their bikes, according to Hopkins. He said if students were to take their bikes home when they are not being used, the rate of bike thefts would decline substantially. 

Another way students can protect their bikes is by making sure they properly secure them when left unattended on campus.

“It starts with us with education at the orientations,” Kendrick said. “We encourage people that if they want to bring a bike to campus, by all means ... but secure it with a solid core U-bolt lock instead of a cable or a chain.”

Finally, NC State recommends that students register their bikes for free through the University. This can deter thieves and make it easier for the campus police to help find a bike if it is stolen.

To report a bike theft, call campus police at 919-515-3000. If the bike is worth less than $1,000, use this link to report the theft. More tips for preventing bike theft on campus can also be found here and on NCSU Transportation’s website