Bait-bike thief is caught in the act

Thief unknowingly steals a bait bike to replace another stolen bike

“Sometimes you just get lucky.”

That’s how Sgt. Gary Spears summed up the July 18 arrest of a thief he saw steal the Rice University Police Department’s (RUPD) cable-locked bait bike from the rack outside the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC). The thief was riding another bike he had stolen on campus that day when he stopped by the BRC rack and opted to take the bait bike instead.

Spears observed the theft while he was on his way into work. “I went to check the bike to make sure it was still there,” he said. “And while I’m going by doing my rounds, I see the guy stealing the bike.”

He called his colleagues in uniform, while the RUPD dispatcher kept an eye on signals from the bike’s hidden Global Positioning System (GPS) device, which provides instant location information as it moves across a map of Houston and relays this information to officers on patrol.

Within 10 minutes and 0.9 miles from the BRC, Capt. Clemente Rodriguez boarded a METRORail train stopped at the Hermann Park/Rice University station and arrested a man standing next to the bait bike. It was the second time RUPD had arrested this thief for stealing an RUPD bait bike. Officers Pennie Goodie and Ruth Maxwell led the arrest processing.

After arresting the thief, RUPD learned that the man had also stolen a student’s cable-locked bike at Sid Richardson College that morning and had left it at the BRC. “He stashed the student’s bike at the BRC and he took the bait bike, which was a more expensive bike,” Spears said. “We assume he was going to come back and get his first bike.”

The thief was escorted back to RUPD and charged with two thefts. He was then taken to Harris County Jail.

Counting the July 18 theft, the bait bike has been stolen 24 times since September 2012, when RUPD began attaching a GPS device to a bike to enable officers to follow thieves and recover the stolen property. After a thief breaks the lock and begins moving the bait bike, the GPS company alerts the RUPD dispatcher.

Spears said RUPD has recovered the bike all 24 times and made an arrest in all but one incident in which the thief dropped the bike and got away on foot.

To protect their bikes from theft, Rice students and employees can register the bikes they have on campus with RUPD. Stolen bikes that are registered have a greater chance of being recovered, Spears said.

Registration can be done online at RUPD.rice.edu. Click “Bike registration” under the “Prevent a crime” heading. RUPD recommends that bike owners lock their bikes with a U-bolt and make sure they attach part of the frame so that thieves can’t detach a wheel and steal the rest of the bike.

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