GOSHEN — To have three bikes stolen within a 13-month period is certainly frustrating.
For Goshen resident Michael Dickens, his family’s misfortune led him to get proactive.
In just more than a year, his wife has had two bicycles stolen, one from Greencroft and one from Goshen College, and his son had his bike taken from their garage while the family ate lunch inside.
For all the biking that takes place in Goshen, Dickens believes there should be more aggressive efforts against theft to protect the property of cyclists.
“It seems to me that if we advertise ourselves as a bicycle-friendly community, we should be more proactive in trying to prevent bike thefts,” he explained.
After speaking with Mayor Allan Kauffman, who lives in Dickens’ neighborhood near IU Health Goshen Hospital, Dickens was encouraged to come up with a strategy that would hopefully deter bicycle thefts.
Inspired by the online hidden-camera show “To Catch a Bike Thief,” Dickens said he has suggested to Goshen city officials to install GPS equipment on bicycles that could be used to track them by phone, computer or other device if taken by thieves.
Dickens said the GPS equipment can look exactly like a regular piece of the bike’s equipment, such as the seat post. He added that only thieves who clearly knew what they were looking for would be able to spot the device.
The city, though, unable to finance the operation, suggested setting up a fund with the city that could potentially purchase the equipment in the future.
Dickens said he’s set up a fund called Bike Theft Abatement with the clerk-treasurer’s office and is hoping that enough money will be raised to entice the city to go forward with his plan.
At this point, Dickens said he has not heard from the police department on his proposal and the department declined an interview for this story. Goshen police have, however, begun their own effort to try to rein in bike thieves.
“One might feel that the theft of a bicycle doesn’t rank particularly high on the list of crimes to affect a community but in fact it does mean a great deal in a community such as ours,” Goshen police said in a press release.
With that in mind, the department recently they began an effort they call the “bait bicycle plan.”
The plan involves placing a bicycle in an area that’s seen increased problems with the issue, while officers in an unmarked car keep an eye on the bike a short distance away.
The police department plans to move the “bait bicycle” throughout the city in the hopes of deterring thefts in the future.
As of Monday, the plan had already led to two arrests, which Dickens applauds. He’s still holding out hope his plan gains traction, though, which he believes would both cut down on bike thefts and save some of the officers’ time.
“That’s time (officers) could be doing something else,” he stated. The advantage of the GPS equipment, Dickens explained, is that it would allow officers to perform their day-to-day tasks without having to always have an eye on the bait bicycle. If the bike started moving, officers would be notified and could follow the GPS signal which they could follow until they’d caught up with whoever has the bike.
While Dickens said he’d like to see more done to protect cyclists’ property, he believes the department has made a good first step.
“More should happen,” Dickens concluded, “but it’s a step in the right direction.”