Recent changes in legislation make it easier for police to use decoy bikes to tackle theft
In 2023 around 30,000 bicycles were reported stolen in Belgium, with the exact number of crime incidents believed to be higher, with most incidents remaining unsolved. Recently announced changes to legislation in Belgium have made it easier for police to use “bait bikes”, vehicles that can track down thieves and return the bikes to their rightful owners.
Belgian Justice Minister Paul Van Tigchelt was interviewed by the Brussels Times and said the following “A stolen bike frustrates victims enormously. It also frustrates the police because it is very difficult to catch bicycle thieves in the act, with decoy bikes, we can do something about it.“
What are “bait bikes”?
Equipped with a GPS tracker, they are anonymous and can be parked on any street to report to police as soon as a bike starts moving, who can easily follow where the vehicle is going.
This crime-tackling method is not new, but before the changes in legislation, it was more difficult for police to use it because they had to prove that they were undertaking special organized crime operations to get authorization from the Public Prosecutor’s Office, as this action was categorized under special investigation methods. Now they do not have to go to those lengths to use a decoy bike, making the process more streamlined and easier for the police to track down thieves.
It is expected to boost solvability for this crime and result in more perpetrators being punished (reportedly with fines of up to 400 euros if caught, and for repeat offenders it is less clear if they would receive a more serious punishment).
With bait bikes being more commonly used by the police, it is hoped that it will serve as a preventive measure to put off thieves from committing the crime in the first place, as it would be difficult for them to know whether they’ll be on the radar of a decoy bike.