Frustrated police 'bait' bicycle thieves

A bicycle is fixed to the railing of a bridge in Amsterdam. Police in a city in the bicycle-crazy Netherlands, fed up with high levels of theft, said they are leaving out two-wheelers secretly equipped with trackers to catch thieves. (AFP)

Police in a city in the bicycle-crazy Netherlands, fed up with high levels of theft, said they are leaving out two-wheelers secretly equipped with trackers to catch thieves.

"Bicycle theft is a type of criminality that often goes unpunished," police spokeswoman Cornelie Hogeveen told AFP of the project in the central Dutch city of Amersfoort, which had a population of 144,858 and 900 bicycle thefts in 2010 - 10 percent of the city's total reported crimes.

In a six-month pilot project that started December 10, so-called "bait bikes" are being placed in different spots around town, "sometimes locked and sometimes not," said a police statement.

The lures "look just like normal bikes," according to Hogeveen.

Whenever a bike is removed, the police pick up its Global Positioning System (GPS) signal and start a trace.

"Sometimes the thief is already gone, sometimes we find other stolen bikes," the spokeswoman said.

"It is a form of criminality that affects many in the Netherlands," she added. "Not only do they risk having their bikes stolen, but also buying a stolen bike."

The Netherlands, which counts an estimated 18 million bicycles for 16.5 million inhabitants, registered a total 515,000 bicycle thefts in 2009, according to AVC, an organisation that tracks vehicle theft statistics.

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