The San Francisco Police Department’s Anti Bike Theft Unit has an unorthodox plan to go after bike thieves — camping out in people’s garages to catch them in the act.
Police Officer Matt Friedman took to Twitter earlier this month to ask residents to volunteer their garages for the first-of-its-kind effort.
If anyone is willing to let us camp out in their garage for the evening contact me at Park station 2423000 leave a message
— SFPD Anti Bike Theft (@SFPDBikeTheft) May 5, 2014
Since then, volunteers have reached out to Friedman, including these two victims of bike theft who responded to the Twitter post.
The idea for planting officers in residential garages came from an ordinary citizen who follows Friedman on Twitter. It’s an effort “to slow the rate of bike theft burglary in San Francisco,” Friedman told Business Insider. “That’s really what these goals are for — we want to stop people from burglarizing garages and stealing bikes.”
The concept is still in the early stages of planning as the police begin coordinating with volunteers. The Bike Theft Unit is focusing on the area near the department’s Park Station and wants to camp out in the shared garage of a multi-unit building with the approval of a homeowner association, Friedman said. Those garages are popular targets for thieves because multiple bikes may be stored together.
Bike theft in San Francisco has increased by 70% from 2006 to 2012, according to The New York Times. In the latter year alone, the city estimated 4,035 bikes were stolen.
The San Francisco Police Department has already been tackling the problem by planting particularly expensive bicycles equipped with GPS technology throughout the city, the Times reports. When thieves take those bikes, the police can immediately track where they are and charge the criminal with a felony.
Whereas San Francisco is among various cities and universities using that tactic, it may be the first asking for volunteers to let police officers camp out in residential garages. “I haven’t heard of it being done. … I know in San Francisco bikes are getting taken out of garages all the time and those are considered burglaries, so we want to try and do something about it and catch these guys in the process,” Friedman said.
“I can’t imagine it’s entrapment only because we’re not enticing somebody to walk into a garage and steal something,” Friedman added.
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