How Effective Are Bait Cars, Anyway?

No doubt you've seen the signs like the one at right; they've been around since 2004. The Dallas Police Department was among the first in the country to launch the Auto Theft Tracking Program, which involves putting monitoring devices in bait cars that the DPD can track and control after they've been swiped by unsuspecting YouTube sensations. (Though, as we were reminded last year, things don't always go as planned.)

Reason I bring this up: At noon today DPD Deputy Chief Sherryl Scott will give this presentation to the council's Public Safety Committee, which attempts to tie the drop in auto thefts to the implementation of the bait car program. Says the briefing: There were close to 16,000 reported car thefts in '04 and about half that six years later. (The latest DPD crime report notes that through December 7, there have been 7,503 in this year.)

Says the DPD, 344 arrests have been made since the first one on July 13, 2004. A few other fun facts:

• Arrestees include approximately 20% juveniles and 80% adults
• Age ranges from 11 to 63, average is 24
• Average 4 prior convictions with a high of 31 (priors include burglary, theft, drugs and auto thefts)
• Range of Punishment: 45 days to 35 years in Prison; two to 10 years probation
• Between 4-7 bait vehicles deployed at all times
• Few incidents of bait vehicles damage

DPD also notes there has been one fatality involving bait car: On June 2, 2009, a man named Eddie Ramirez -- who'd been released from state prison on May 29, 2008, after having served time for stealing a bait car -- stole another one of DPD's modified rides. At which point, going 75 miles per hour, he collided with another driver, Annie Reyes, killing her. One thing the briefing does not mention: The city council voted last year to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by her family for $245,000.

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