Cops using ‘bait bikes’ to target would-be thieves
Grand Junction police got word just before noon March 8.
Their target, one of their own police “bait bikes,” was finally moving after sitting unmolested for two days on the campus of Colorado Mesa University.
A Global Positioning System device told them the bicycle was heading south on 12th Street from the campus, before turning west on Ute Avenue.
In the parking lot of the Grand Junction Police Department, 555 Ute Ave., officer Michelle Czajkowski waited and watched.
“I observed a light blue BMW 328i with a bicycle hanging out of the trunk of the vehicle,” Czajkowski wrote in an arrest affidavit.
“Officers,” she wrote, “were approaching the vehicle and I asked dispatch if the GPS updated the current location of the bicycle and dispatch confirmed that the bicycle was traveling on U.S. Highway 50 now.”
The vehicle was stopped soon after.
“I took that bike from CMU,” 50-year-old Bruce Chartier allegedly confessed.
He was jailed on suspicion of theft and criminal mischief, but not before allegedly admitting more details of the crime, such as using bolt-cutters to cut a bike lock, according to the affidavit.
Score one more for the department’s anti-bike-theft initiative, details about which they are tight-lipped.
From last October to present, “bait bikes” have been used to make six arrests, police spokeswoman Kate Porras said.
“We started using them in response to a problem we were seeing with stolen bikes in the city,” she said.
In 2013, 196 bicycles were reported stolen with losses totalling $120,000, according to department figures.
Thefts increased from 116 in 2012, although they’re down from 2011, which saw 249. Forty-seven bicycles had been reported stolen this year as of May 31, Porras said.
“Bait bikes,” used by police in several bike-friendly cities nationally, including in the San Francisco Police Department, are equipped with GPS systems and operators are alerted when movement is detected.
In some cities, bikes are also equipped with cameras snapping photos of suspects caught in the act.
Some police agencies post the photos to their social media sites. Porras said Grand Junction isn’t interested in copying the practice.
“We have several detectives in the department utilizing the equipment,” she said.
The department declined to reveal more about the program, while Porras cited concern about giving out “tactical information educating the wrong people.”
The bicycles used in the program were donated free of charge, while the department paid $450 for the rest of the equipment, she said.