Fort Worth

Fort Worth Police Arrest 1,500 Thieves With Bait Cars

Program targeting car thieves is 10 years old

A "bait car" program targeting auto thieves in Fort Worth has made more than 1,500 arrests since it started about 10 years ago, police said.

The cars are wired with hidden cameras and GPS tracking devices.

Officers park them in neighborhoods where crime statistics show a spike in car thefts and break-ins.

When unsuspecting thieves break in, they have no way of knowing police are hot on their trail – until it's too late.

"The goal of the bait car unit is to disrupt criminal activity where it's happening, as it's happening, with the goal of arresting a prolific offender," said Fort Worth Police Lt. Chad Mahaffey.

Police can turn off the bait cars' engines by remote control, so the thieves are unable to flee, Mahaffey said.

Similar GPS trackers are also placed on laptops and other items popular with thieves.

"Without disclosing too much, we have dozens of pieces of bait, and an entire fleet of bait cars," Mahaffey said. "Whenever we have crime in a neighborhood, we match the hatch – we put the bait where the crime is happening and we haven't lost a piece yet."

Police never know who will take the bait.

In 2008, a 69-year-old grandmother was arrested stealing a bait car in Arlington.

Police say the hidden-camera videos are solid evidence, making it hard for defense attorneys to fight in court.

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