Bikes along a wall with ivy

Bike thieves beware: University launches Bait Bike Program

Nov. 30, 2018, 12:19 p.m.

The Department of Public Safety has a message for would-be bike thieves eyeing Princeton’s campus: think twice.

A few locked bicycles equipped with GPS tracking devices — known as bait bikes — have been placed around campus. If a bait bike is taken, Public Safety may track its location and arrest the person in possession of a stolen bike.

The goal of the Bait Bike Program is to reduce theft, as well as encourage people to lock their bikes and register them with the University. 

“Bicycle theft is one of the most common crimes on college campuses, and Princeton is no exception,” Executive Director of Public Safety Paul Ominsky said. “Bikes are the most stolen item at the University.”

As part of the new program, Public Safety will provide registered bike riders with stickers that say “This Could Be a Bait Bike: Think Before You Steal.” That way, potential thieves won’t know which bikes are being tracked. 

“The idea is to deter people from stealing in the first place,” said Cpl. Martin Krzywicki, a Public Safety officer. He and Sgt. Sean Ryder are leading the Bait Bike Program. “We hope bicycle thefts will eventually decline as we raise awareness about the bait bikes.”

Public Safety will hold a “Coffee with a Cop” event from 8 to 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 10, at Frist Campus Center, to provide more information about the Bait Bike Program.

The University encourages bike riding as a sustainable mode of transportation. Many students traverse campus on two wheels, and a growing number of faculty and staff bike to work. Princeton’s tree-lined pathways and quiet roads make biking fun and easy, and the University has more than 3,600 spaces for bike parking.

But not everyone registers and locks their bikes, which makes theft an ongoing challenge.

“The chances are extremely high that you will become a victim of bike theft if you own a bike on campus,” Krzywicki said. “We hope the Bait Bike Program will make campus safer.”

To obtain a bait bike sticker, students, faculty and staff should register their bikes with Transportation and Parking Services, if they have not done so already. Registration is free, and riders may also purchase a U-lock for $30. The University offers other services for registered bikes on campus, such as free lock removal for people who forget their combination or misplace their key.

“Public Safety is taking proactive steps to reduce crimes like bike theft,” Krzywicki said. “But we need the University community’s help by registering their bikes. Public Safety can use the registration information to return a bike to its rightful owner if it’s lost or stolen. If the bike is not registered, it becomes very difficult to prove ownership.”

The Department of Public Safety and Transporting and Parking Services websites have more information on bike registrationbike-walk commuter incentive programs for employees and bicycle safety tips.