Dallas News Station Uses GPS Tracking to Thwart Bike Theft

19 Jun 2017

Whether it’s day or night, locked or not, thieves swipe bikes off front porches or sneak into garages and steal them out of vehicles.

They do get caught occasionally, although it’s rare even with surveillance camera evidence, police say.

This leaves victims who sometimes have bikes worth thousands of dollars helpless.

According to Megan McGown, it’s her form of transportation. She’s already had a couple bikes stolen. Since she doesn’t drive, her bike means freedom for her as it does for many people.

One of the thieves who stole a bike from McGowan was caught on surveillance cameras, but, although she filed a police report for both cases, her bikes are still missing and no arrests were made.

McGown’s and other stories similar to hers are not uncommon. In fact, in Dallas, thieves stole a couple bikes a day last year. And police don’t always get a report of stolen bikes. According to WFAA reviewed records, only one percent of stolen bicycles are actually recovered.

The head of the Dallas Bicycle Coalition, Mary Fehler, says that many bike owners don’t bother reporting thefts anymore since they assume police aren’t going to do anything.

But, Dallas Police Department’s, Sgt. James Johnson in the Operational Intelligence unit claims that it only takes seconds for a thief to grab a bike and it’s gone with no way of tracking it.

Because of this, WFAA made tracking the stolen bikes and seeing where they go after being stolen their mission.

They purchased a few bikes from a website called OfferUp and from a local pawn shop and installed each bike with a GPS tracking device. They then placed the bikes near Deep Ellum and downtown where police say is a common place for theft. They locked up some of the bikes and left the others unsecured to see how long it would take them to get stolen.

Many of the bikes were set near surveillance cameras.

In Deep Ellum, it only took 12 minutes before a thief came and rode off with a bike that was unsecured. The bike was tracked through the GPS device and was found traveling to an apartment complex through Southeast Dallas.

The surveillance images were shown to the neighbors, but all denied stealing the bike. The bike was recovered and set in place again with a lock this time.

Surveillance video showed another thief cutting the lock of the bike a couple hours later.

Another unsecured bike near Crowdus and Canton also went missing. A woman was spotted on camera walking up to the bike and riding off with it. This bike was brought south of downtown Dallas to a homeless housing complex where it remained all night.

A GPS alert indicated the bike was in motion again that morning. It went to the West End through downtown where a person brought it onto a DART train.

The person got off on South Lancaster Road near the VA hospital. Later on, another person was riding the bike and was tracked to yet another new owner after it changed hands again.

The WFAA showed the person how they’d been tracking the bike over the past 12 hours and where it’s been going.

The man claimed he bought the bike for $20 from another man in the neighborhood.

The new bike owner, known as “Big J” in the neighborhood said he asked where the bike came from several times.

WFAA bought the bike back from him.

Thanks to GPS tracking technology, this story ended with a recovery. However, without GPS, it’s too easy for thieves to get away with stealing bikes.

Police say they have a bait bike program in effect that their using to capture bike thieves and get them off the streets.

They offer thieves this warning: “Be careful what bike you pick because it might be ours,” Sgt. Johnson said.



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