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Rise in San Francisco bike theft leads to "bait bikes"

Police racking down on rampant bike theft by creating bait bikes equipped with GPS tracking systems
Police racking down on rampant bike theft by ... 02:15

San Francisco is considered one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, but it's also been one of the friendliest for thieves.

Sean Ramirez, mechanic at Mojo Bicycle, said some locks take half a second to cut. Much of his work these days isn't just fixing parts, but replacing them because of theft, reports CBS News' Bigad Shaban.

He said he sees riders whose bikes get stolen everyday, sometimes more than once a day.

"They should be afraid of getting hit by a car, but they're even more afraid of getting their bike stolen," Ramirez said.

According to the San Francisco board of supervisors, bike theft in the city has increased 70 percent since 2006.

"Literally, one every 3 hours was stolen," said officer Matt Friedman who heads San Francisco's anti-bike theft unit.

This year they implemented a plan to lure thieves with pricey wheels and weak locks. They call them "bait bikes."

"When someone takes the bike, the GPS is activated, I get a notification that the bike has been tampered with," Friedman said.

The bicycles are equipped with a hidden tracking system so officers can use this device to find the stolen bikes.

Hidden cameras catch the thieves in action -- and then their subsequent arrest. The police department then posts the mug shots on social media.

Friedman said when they catch these thieves, their reactions are usually "utter shock."

"Their face and their expression is priceless," said Friedman.

Morgan St. Clair, Safe Bikes manager, helped lobby the city for funding to buy the bait bikes. She drew from personal experience.

"I came back after work and it was gone. The whole bike and the lock," she said.

"The idea is that any bike in the city at any time could be a bait bike," explained Friedman, who hopes the program can put the brakes on theft.

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