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About Bike Theft >The Problem >
Response Strategies

7. Implementing an electronic tagging scheme

Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID), which are widely used in the distribution and retail sector for tracing stolen goods and deterring thieves, are also used to protect bikes. At Ohio State University, a scheme called Bug-a-Bike™ provided cyclists with the opportunity to have a small RFID tag installed in the seat post of their bicycle, or fixed to the frame (Kleberg, 2002).

Striking labels were also fixed to the ‘bugged’ bicycles to warn would-be offenders that the bike had been tagged. Participating cyclists were required to submit their details to a web-based registration system linked to their unique RFID tag, thus enabling each bike to be registered to its owner and if stolen, for the police to be able to easily identify the bicycle using an RFID reader.

Though no assessment has been made on the impact on bicycle theft to date, the scheme has been successful in terms of registration uptake, increased numbers of recovered bicycles been returned to their owners, and importantly, popularity with students.

A similar RFID scheme was implemented in Southend (UK). Here, police officers provided bicycle dealers in the local area with RFID readers to check if bicycles brought to them for sale or repair had been reported as stolen.

Again, although a systematic assessment of the impact on bicycle theft is yet to be conducted, both examples illustrate the potential for using new technology to enhance existing crime reduction strategies. It should be noted however that potential problems with such interventions are that they rely on a reasonable level of take-up to be effective and that they are in any case unlikely to impact upon the sale of stolen bicycle parts.

©2008 // DESIGN AGAINST CRIME RESEARCH CENTRE // LONDON WC1B 4AP fully funded by the AHRC / EPSRC Designing for the 21st Century Initiative