Bronx D.A. expands ‘bait car’ program through grant

Car thieves in the Bronx beware! Someone might be baiting you.

The Bronx District Attorney’s office announced the continuation and expansion of its bait car program, begun in 1995, at a press conference held on Friday, March 5. The “bait car,” involves plain clothes NYPD officers positioning enticing cars in high-crime areas in order to catch the criminals in the act. The program is mainly to combat car break-ins, which has been a persistent problem in the borough despite a sharp decrease in auto theft since the program began.

The expansion was made possible through a $125,000 grant presented by Senator Jeff Klein. Bronx D.A. Robert Johnson accepted the check, and said in a statement that Klein’s grant will be used to purchase an additional bait car and cover overtime expenses for anti-auto theft investigators.

“The office of the Bronx District Attorney is pleased to acknowledge the receipt of this grant from the office of Senator Jeff Klein,” Johnson said. “The more often we can deploy investigatory teams, along with the bait cars, the more often wrongdoers will take the bait and be punished for it.”

Currently, the Bronx D.A.’s office operates two bait cars. NYPD officers made 13 arrests in 2008 using them. This included a very successful sting operation at the New York Botanical Garden according to the office. In that year officers recovered 486 stolen vehicles and returned them to their rightful owners. In total, the cars were valued at more than $5.8 million. Senator Klein said that he believes this program will result in more pressure being placed on auto thieves.

“When it comes to fighting crime, especially auto break-ins, we can never be too vigilant,” Klein said. “The bait car program is an innovative way to crackdown on these incidents and keep our neighborhoods safe. I am committed to insuring that our law enforcement receives all of the tools they possibly can in order to continue doing a great job at protecting our lives and our property.”

The anti-auto theft program also includes nighttime surveillance in investigations into auto-related crimes, as well as document and insurance fraud surveillance operations. A second component incorporates License Plate Reader technology that captures license plate numbers quickly in order to compare them in a computer database of recently stolen vehicles.

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