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Bait bike leads police to chop shop hidden behind bookcase

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A bait bike used by Reed College campus security led police to a secret bicycle chop shop that was hidden behind a bookshelf.

"We're doing something proactive instead of saying just get another lock or buy a cheaper bike," said Gary Granger, Director of Community Safety at Reed College.

Since February Reed College has used a "bait bike" program.

A few bikes are planted around campus with hidden global positioning devices inside them.

If the bikes move more than two feet officials at Reed College are alerted.

So far it's led to a drop in bike theft, though campus officials wouldn't say by exactly how much.

"To have a bike stolen within four hours of putting the first one out sort of stunned us," Granger said.

Reed College says five bikes have been stolen, and four have been recovered.

The GPS lost track of one of the bikes.

Reed College declined to give specific numbers on how much the lost bike cost them, but bike advocates say the hidden GPS unit can cost well over $2,000.

"I'm sure they're getting 10 times the value 'cause the word does get out, 'Don't steal bikes at Reed,'" said Bryan Hance, who runs BikeIndex.org.

Hance would like to see Portland police create a bait bike program as part of its Bike Theft Task Force.

"It's worth putting these bait bikes out there," said Hance. "It is worth chasing them through the community because you always find something crazier at the other end."

In the case of the bait bike recovered from an abandoned Southeast Portland home, none of the people at the home was arrested.

"There has to be enforcement behind it," said Hance. "There has to be prosecution."

Hance says bait bike programs are most effective when the bikes are more than $1,000 in value, which would bring a felony theft charge against the person accused of stealing the bike.

"Bait bikes are great because it shows the city and the community is in to actually put some effort into it," Hance said.

Portland State University says it has no plans to implement a bait bike program like Reed College has.

"I don't see a necessity for it," said Todd Marston, a graduate student at PSU studying jazz. "But that's also because I haven't had anything stolen yet. So that might change if that happened."

PSU says it is focused on preventing bike theft, which is why it opened up six different secure parking garages.

The garages offer a total of 481 bike parking spots.

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