Amsterdam police will use bicycles equipped with hidden GPS transmitters to bait thieves and track them down in the latest effort to stamp out rampant bike theft, a police spokesman says.
Cycling is a way of life in the pancake-flat Netherlands, which boasts more bicycles than its 16 million inhabitants, and in Amsterdam alone an estimated 80,000-150,000 bicycles — over one tenth of the total — are stolen every year.
“It would be great to get hold of the organised bicycle thieves, to track the whereabouts of stolen bikes and see if any end up in an official bicycle shops,” Amsterdam police spokesman Rob van der Veen said on Tuesday. “We just want to do everything we can to combat bicycle theft and are going to use new GPS technology,” he said.
In a campaign starting in spring, police will leave locked bikes with secret GPS emitters in Amsterdam’s bike theft hotspots such as the historic city centre.
GPS, the worldwide radio-navigation system used for shipping and military purposes, enables users to pinpoint the position, speed and time to locate themselves or an object. Bike theft is so widespread in the capital that rental shops won’t let customers leave without giving them a crash course on bike locking — attaching both wheels to the frame, and chaining the bicycle to a fixed object, such as a bike stand.
Van ver Veen said the initiative targeted professional bicycle thieves, those who scour the city at night and steal several bikes at a time putting them in vans or trailers.
According to a website campaigning against bike theft in Amsterdam (www.fietsendiefstal.nl), 40 percent of bike thieves are professionals while 30 percent are drug addicts who sell stolen bikes as quickly as possible to pay for their next fix. The remainder are usually impulsive thieves, sometimes students or youths — and very often drunk — who steal a bike to get home after their own was pinched.