By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Would-be bicycle thiefs are being caught under a program the Philadelphia Police Department is running in the 6th police district — the eastern half of center city — by leaving unattended bicycles as ‘bait.’

Lt. Frank Milillo says they’re setting up “stings” wherever bike thefts have spiked to catch those who might have larceny in their hearts. He says the operations do not amount to entrapment:

“I mean, the average person would realize that it’s somebody elses property and it’s not just there for the taking.”

Police officer Joseph Ferrero, who is assigned to a five-squad, plain-clothes unit, spoke to KYW Newsradio just after making a pinch south of Market Street, along the 13th Street corridor:

“A little over 100 people walked by the bike before one gentleman walked directly up to the bike and immediately picked it up and tried to ride away on it,” Ferrero said.

Milillo is receptive to the possibility of even hiding GPS trackers on bait bikes, and following them to bike chop shops:

“What I’m going to do is look into this and see if we can acquire the proper systems,” he said.

Both Milillo and Ferrero agree that the number of bike thefts reported in Philadelphia is not even close to the actual number, because so many go unreported.

In the last six years, police data shows more than 10,700 bicycles with a total value of nearly $4 million were reported stolen in Philadelphia.

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