Staff editorial: Nov. 3, 2011

For the next two years, would-be bike thieves might be thinking twice before taking bikes.

The University Police received $3,400 in grant money to crack down on bike theft, a growing problem on campus. Between July 1 and Sept. 30, 13 bikes were reported stolen, according to an article in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

What do University Police plan to do with the money? Over the next two years, they will be planting “bait bikes,” which are bikes with GPS tracking devices attached to them, around campus in hopes of catching potential thieves. They will also be printing stickers reading, “This could be a bait bike” that students can put on their bikes to deter thieves.

For students who’ve had their precious bi-wheeled vehicles stolen, this police action is welcomed. Many believe police don’t do enough in recovering stolen bikes, and now something is being done to stop bike theft to begin with.

Because the money for the bait bike program comes from a state grant, the university is not spending any money on it that could be better spent elsewhere, another advantage to the plan.

One concern is the size of the GPS tracking devices affixed to the bikes. If large enough and easy enough to spot, a bike thief could see it and instead target a bike without the device to avoid being caught.

The plan could be made stronger, too. Students concerned about bike theft could purchase their own GPS devices to attach to their bikes and register them with the University Police, so in the event their bike is taken, they will have a means to locate it and get it back. That way, rather than two years of theft deterrence while grant money is available, anti-theft measures will instead be part of the bike culture in Eau Claire.

Overall, the program is a welcome idea. The bait bike program will afford bike owners on campus some precious peace of mind.