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Bike Bait

MPD decoys catch unsuspecting bicycle thieves.

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Every good hunter knows how to use a decoy. Even the Memphis Police Department.

For the last three weeks, officers on the midnight shift have left an $880 Raleigh F500 bicycle at various locations around Midtown -- the Exxon Tigermarket at 1355 Union, the Circle K at 1351 Madison, and the Phillips 66 at 1243 Lamar -- in hopes that someone will take the bait. Literally.

"The idea is to catch criminals, not make criminals out of good people," said Lt. Richard Borgers of the West Precinct. "We're trying to get some criminals off the street."

During the operation, an undercover police officer will ride the bike somewhere, park it or lean it up against a fence, and then walk off. After a suspect rides off on the bicycle, he or she is usually apprehended within a few blocks.

The operation is a result of a slight increase -- maybe 1 to 2 percent, said Borgers -- in thefts and larcenies in the precinct. Some of the officers were brainstorming about what they could do to change that and they came up with the idea of a decoy mountain bike.

"We've done it before with vehicles equipped with a kill switch that you can operate by radio. That's been done throughout the country," said Borgers. "We've also left cars out there with items in the back seat and the window rolled down slightly to catch people trying to break in. "The decoy is nothing new. Using the bikes is something kind of new."

So far, every individual the team has caught has prior records, several with recent burglary charges. One person arrested was recently released after being charged with breaking into a shed and stealing ... a bicycle.

Borgers said the police department plans to continue using the decoy.

"Somebody should be able to ride their bike up to the Mapco and still have it be there when they come out a few minutes later," he said. n

E-mail: cashiola@memphisflyer.com

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