Agency Spotlight: Georgia Tech PD
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Georgia Tech Police Department
The Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) launched a new program over the summer aimed at helping bicycle owners remember to secure their bikes. “Operation BUMP,” the moniker for “Bicycles Unsecure Management Program,” is the latest initiative to deal with a rise in bike thefts on campus.
As part of Operation BUMP, when GTPD sees an unsecured bicycle, an officer will lock it with one of the department’s U-locks and apply an adhesive “Gotcha” tag to the seat. The tag indicates that the owner should contact GTPD to have the bicycle unlocked. Not only does this protect the bike, it helps motivate the owner to have a functional lock in place before leaving the bike unattended. The department’s Community OutReach and Engagement (CORE) Unit has secured funding for 12 such locks and looks to expand the program as needs warrant. In addition, the CORE Unit has been aggressively impounding bikes that have been abandoned or secured to improper objects in an effort to present fewer targets.
“When you don’t lock your bike, you are creating the potential for a crime of opportunity,” said GTPD Sgt. Gary Cook, who heads up the department’s bicycle unit. “The vast majority of bicycles that are stolen on campus are unsecured.”
Most bike thefts on campus occur when a bicycle is either unsecured or secured only with a flimsy cable-style lock. From January to July 2017, there have been 40 bicycle thefts on campus, double the number for the same period in 2016. Of those 40, eight bicycles were not secured at all, and 20 were secured only with a cable lock. In addition to traditional education and outreach, this approach allows GTPD to be more proactive in bike theft prevention efforts.
The first “participant” in Operation BUMP was mechanical engineering student Leo Prinzi. The GTPD U-lock and “Gotcha” tag were a little confusing when he first saw them. “When I arrived at the Ford building, ready to lock my bike, I realized I didn't have my key,” Prinzi said. “I was in a hurry to be at a meeting, so I just left my bike at the bike rack unlocked. I figured no one would take it in the hour I was in the meeting. When I got back from the meeting, I saw my bike had a Gotcha sticker along with a U-lock, both put on by GTPD.”
Initially, Prinzi thought he was in trouble, but he quickly realized the point of the program was to help students secure their bicycles. He said GTPD also made him aware of the recent bicycle thefts on campus. “This was a real eye-opener to me,” Prinzi said. “Since then, I always lock my bike, even if I'm going to be somewhere for five minutes.”