Which is worse: Having your bike stolen and not knowing what happened to it, or having your bike stolen, knowing where it is, and not being able to do anything about it? That’s the problem that Chicagoan Scotty Woods is facing in mid-July 2023. According to him, his Honda CBR was legally parked on the street near his apartment building. 

Sometime on Sunday, July 16, 2023, the bike disappeared. However, Woods had a plan in place that he hoped would come in handy if his bike ever went missing. He hid an Apple AirTag somewhere on the bike and was able to track it using the Find My app on his iPhone.  

Sounds like a reasonable plan, right? We’ve heard plenty of stories about other people using AirTags to track their bikes, luggage at the airport, and more. Unfortunately for Woods, this story so far doesn’t have a happy ending according to local news station NBC 5 Chicago. 

Woods’ bike disappeared from Pine Grove and Patterson in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. The AirTag told him that it was now located in Humboldt Park. Although the Chicago Police dispatcher that he spoke to on the phone told him not to, he used the information he had to go investigate the situation in person, by himself. Once there, he reported that his AirTag signal was pinging to a box truck in an alley. 

“I actually went over there after the dispatcher told me not to go by myself,” he said. “I was kind of emotionally enraged about the whole situation and I was just hoping that I would see it in plain sight, but unfortunately I did not,” Woods told NBC 5 Chicago. 

What about the Chicago police? When NBC 5 asked what they would advise in this situation, a spokesperson informed them that the best course of action would be to contact the local district office where the stolen property is located, explain the situation, and ask for assistance. 

That’s exactly what Woods did, but so far, it hasn’t helped. “[The officer] wasn’t on the scene for two minutes. I asked him if he could take me through the alley or anything of that nature just to do a safety check or assist. They denied and they said I don’t see it in plain sight that they can’t help me,” Woods told NBC 5 Chicago. 

It’s an incredibly frustrating situation, no matter how you slice it. Although AirTags might be a relatively recent development, antitheft tracking systems used in vehicles to help private citizens and law enforcement track stolen vehicles have been in use for decades. A quick search turns up an article from the February 1995 issue of Law Enforcement Technology titled, “Tracking Stolen Cars with LoJack.” This concept is both clearly and demonstrably not a new one.  

The city of Chicago is located in Cook County. That’s important to note because in October 2022, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office announced the implementation of its new Tracked Vehicle Partnership program. This allows interested vehicle owners to fill out a form giving their consent for police to track their vehicle. The FAQ section adds that vehicles submitted will only be tracked if they’re stolen, not all the time—though of course it’s up to individuals whether they wish to sign up. 

As of July 19, 2023, the Cook County Sheriff’s Vehicle Consent Form offers a wide variety of vehicle manufacturer names in its car-centric drop-down menu, including relative Illinois rarities like Alpine, Caterham, and Lancia. It does not list dedicated motorcycle manufacturers (like Ducati), although there is a listing for Unknown that can be selected. Since the form also requires interested owners to fill in their Vehicle Identification Number and License Plate information, presumably it would soon become clear that the vehicle in question is a motorcycle. 

RideApart has inquired with the CCSO regarding whether Apple AirTags are included in this program but did not immediately hear back. We will update this post if and when we receive a response. 

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