CMPD Bait Cars Used to Catch Thieves in Charlotte
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - How often do you see a crime in action? An 18-year-old got behind the wheel of the wrong car recently. He unknowingly - allegedly - stole a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police bait car.
Bait cars are equipped with cameras, GPS, remote locks and even remote ignition; not good for our young driver.
The camera captures him ducking as other drivers go past and then, only about 30 seconds after his joy ride begins, "I guess he saw a police officer or marked unit in that area and it scared him,” says Sergeant Brian Sanders. Sanders is a Response Area Commander in the Freedom Division. It's his job to watch crime trends and react immediately.
In this case, Sanders noticed a small uptick of car thieves and reacted before the problem grew. "They don't typically steal a car to go buy groceries. They typically steal a car to go commit other crimes,” he says.
And that brings us back to our buddy behind the wheel. We can't tell you his name because he still doesn't know he stole a bait car and police want to be able to use the vehicle again. We can tell you he's been arrested numerous times over the years, for stealing another car, hit and run, assault, felony breaking and entering and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
This time, when he saw the police cruiser, he dumped the car near a church playground where kids were playing. Witnesses say after the guy jumped from the car, it continued to roll right toward the kids, and that earned him the additional charge of assault with a deadly weapon.
Sanders says, "We were able to get the car stopped. He ran and was eventually, quickly, taken into custody."
"The bad thing is that it had to be right in a school zone where a lot of children were,” says Todd Moss. He's the After School Director at Paw Creek Church and was inside the facility when the accused thief jumped from the car. Moss says he likes the bait car technology. "If you're gonna steal, you're gonna steal,” says Moss.
Critics have called bait cars "entrapment.” Sanders sees it differently, saying "We would rather them take our car than yours."
Bait cars look just like regular cars and are placed all over the city. Sometimes they're never stolen. In this case, it took three hours before the accused thief took the bait.