This program seems to invite crime instead of prevent it. How many auto thefts occur when somebody leaves their keys in the car with the windows rolled down, particularly for days on end? I don't think I've seen anybody intentionally leave their keys in a parked car since the 1970s.
The undercover program produced 70 warrants or arrests in 2008 and 13 this year, according to Sgt. Oliver Tate with the Police Department's auto theft interdiction unit. In the past, Detective John Spillers has been quoted as saying the program has caught suspects as young as 13.
The police did not specify what the arrests were for, how many resulted in convictions or why the number of arrests has declined in 2009. Nor did they provide figures on how much the program costs. However, in 2007 the City Council received an $85,287 one-year grant from the state for bait car equipment.
In fact, it's damn impressive that the car could sit with the keys in it for days without being bothered. In that environment, is the program really necessary?
An attorney for a couple accused of breaking into a bait car after calling the police about it suggested the tactic could create liability for police: "'It's a completely functional car,' he said. 'They have no idea who could get behind the wheel. This was near a high school, so it could have been a kid. Or a drunk.' (McCallum High School is in the neighborhood.)"
Said the fellow who first reported the car to police then was prosecuted for searching it: "To hell with being a concerned citizen ... You hear stories of someone getting mugged and no one gets involved. Now I see why."
What do you think? Is the program worth the effort or does it border too closely on entrapment? From the examples in this article it doesn't sound like the program is geared toward targeting hardened auto thieves.
RELATED: From the LRC Blog, "Tax-Feeders and Manufactured Crime."