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'Bait bikes' coming to New Westminster streets

New West police have a message for bike thieves: Steal one, and you'll be arrested.
Sgt. Andrew Leaver, media relations officer for the NWPD, speaks to media at a press conference held Thursday, Sept. 7 to announce the launch of the new "bait bike" program in New Westminster.

New Westminster police are planting "bait bikes" in neighbourhoods around the city in hopes of stemming a rising tide of bike thefts.

The New Westminster Police Department announced the launch of the new program during a media briefing outside Queen's Park Arena on Thursday, Sept. 7.

Starting this month, the NWPD's street crime unit will deploy numerous bikes in neighbourhoods around New West. The bikes contain technology that will help police identify and track down anyone who attempts to steal them.

"What we're hoping to do here is not only prosecute and catch those bike thieves that are out there stealing bikes throughout our city, but deter them from doing that," explained Sgt. Andrew Leaver, the department's media relations officer.

Leaver declined to give specifics about the number of bikes and how exactly the technology functions, noting police need to "maintain the integrity" of the program.

"What I can tell you is that our street crime unit is specifically monitoring these bikes, and they will be alerted the minute that they're stolen, and we're hoping to catch as many bike thieves as we can during this program," he said. 

The bikes in question could be any type of bike, traditional or electric.

Bike theft has become a large problem in New Westminster, with just under 100 bikes reported stolen in both 2021 and 2022, Leaver said.

He noted bike theft is likely an underreported crime because the court process around bike theft can be complicated, and many owners simply choose not to pursue it.

"However, we do know that it's an important issue. We do know that whether a bike is high-valued or low-valued, it's important to its owner," he said. "We are committed to help return those bikes and to combatting bike theft in the city."

Police ask anyone who falls victim to bike theft to report the crime to the NWPD, so police can use the information to help target areas of the city where the bait bikes could be most useful.

What you can do to help prevent bike theft: Project 529 and more

At the same time, the NWPD is asking cyclists to help them prevent bike thefts in the first place.

Cyclists are encouraged to use a heavy-duty bike lock and to park their bikes in well-lit areas with public bike parking.

Bike owners are also encouraged to register their bike's serial number with Project 529, a free national database that contains photos, information and a specific sticker given to every registered bicycle.

"This will help any police agency track down a bike when it's been recovered and return it to its rightful owner," Leaver said.

The NWPD will be on hand at community events this fall to help people register their bikes into Project 529. You'll find representatives on hand this weekend at the Guru Nanak Free Kitchen's bike-a-thon and walk-a-thon set for Sunday, Sept. 10 at the Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar in Queensborough.

Cylists can also stop in to the front counter of the New Westminster Police Department at 555 Columbia St. to pick up a Project 529 decal. The department is open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

You can find out more about the registry at the Project 529 website.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
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