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Digital Clues: Scooter companies urged to work with Baltimore Police Department when used in crimes

User data can develop good leads if needed
Posted at 4:21 PM, Feb 07, 2019

BALTIMORE — In many parts of Baltimore, they are unavoidable.

Bird and Lime scooters are on nearly every corner of downtown, becoming an effective way to get around a densely populated urban setting.

"We're happy to increase mobility," said German Vigil with the Baltimore Department of Transportation. "We are trying to make sure we are able to provide residents and citizens and businesses with the ability to move around through the city."

MORE: Baltimore City gives green light to dockless scooters

Now, as the pilot program draws to a close, the city is studying exactly how they are being used, including in some crimes.

"The task force has been looking into many issues. Recently, we just had a survey that came out that will close out on the 20th and we are encouraging all residents to provide us with feedback," said Vigil.

Back in December, Balitmore police officers were called to Erdman Avenue near Edison Highway. A man was sitting on a bench after fixing a flat tire when a robber rode up on a Bird scooter, pulled out a gun and took the man's phone. The thief took off and while the gas station across the street didn't have working cameras, police had the Bird scooter which contains user information and GPS data; more than enough digital breadcrumbs to develop good leads in some cases.

On the south side of the city, another crime committed using a scooter. This time at an optometrist office in Federal Hill. Witnesses told police a suspect burst into the store, grabbed a phone from a patient's hand and then tossed it to another suspect who got away on a scooter.

In both cases, victims declined on-camera interviews with WMAR-2 News. They did want to make clear these scooters can be used for snatch and grabs or even more serious crimes. An issue Vigil says the task force has noticed.

MORE: Baltimore City introduces bill to criminalize scooter offenses

"This is something the task force takes seriously and the Department of Transportation encourages all residents and citizens and anyone who uses dockless vehicles to report these crimes to both the Baltimore Police Department and the dockless vehicle vendors."

That task force includes two Baltimore police officers and is helping the city draft policies regarding the use of the scooters should they be accepted permanently into the city.

WMAR-2 News reached out to both Bird and Lime regarding their polices of sharing rider information with the police department. Bird told us it would work with law enforcement. Lime never responded.

The pilot program for both companies in Baltimore comes to a close at the end of February.