The bike theft unit of the San Francisco police department took to Craigslist on Tuesday with a post titled, “We Have Our Bait Bikes Out.” Complete with a snazzy decal of a creepy cycling skeleton, the ad warns of GPS-laden bikes that the cops will track. And if you sell a stolen bike, the po-po threaten to toss you in jail and plaster your face “all over social media.” Click to embiggen:

In addition to the Craigslist warning, the SFPD printed out 30,000 stickers that ask, “Is this a bait bike?” You can slap one on your ride to make would-be thieves think twice.

Will the bait bikes actually work? Good question. UW-Madison claims to have cut bike theft by 40 percent the first year it used them. But in Philadelphia Magazine, Christopher Moraff argues that bait bikes entrap opportunistic bike thieves like homeless people, NOT serial bike-nabbers who really need to be shut down:

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[I]f you present an absurdly easy opportunity for a petty property crime, you’re probably not going to nab the Al Capone of stolen Schwinns.  You’re going to get the kid on his way home from school, or the unemployed middle-aged janitor, or the homeless drug addict, who heard opportunity knock and decided to listen. A bait bike is to policing as a .38 and a barrel full of trout is to fishing. You may put dinner on the table but you’re not going to make a dent in the lake.

Moraff argues that the money for bait bikes would be better spent teaching cyclists to register and better lock their bikes. What do you think?

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