National insurance group awards Fort Worth's car bait program



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Posted on December 17, 2010 at 1:02 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 17 at 1:22 AM

FORT WORTH - A national insurance group is saying thanks to the Fort Worth Police Department for its bait car program, which has reeled in over 600 arrests in a four-year period.

Video from cameras installed in the cars have produced some pretty interesting moments.

One such video shows a timid thief who should have followed his gut instincts. He was so afraid while stealing the bait car, he drove with the door open to keep police from locking him inside. It made for an easy surrender, anyway.

In another video, two thieves who took the bait can be seen celebrating prematurely with a high-five. The driver then dropped off his buddy and bails himself in an attempt to run when he sees flashing lights.

Often the suspects already are wanted for other crimes.

"We've had homicide suspects," said Sgt. Clay Hays. "We've had sexual assault [suspects]."

Experts say bait cars have helped cut auto thefts by 35 percent since the program started. Police track the cars by satellite and can kill the motor by remote.

Fort Worth has built up a large fleet, but Arlington and Dallas use them too.

Crooks know it, but some just can't resist temptation.

"He's talking to himself and he says, 'Well, police, if this is a bait car, you're going to have to come and get me," said Hubbard describing audio from another car bait bust.

They did. Detectives say it's always satisfying, perhaps never more so than when one thief walked out of Tarrant County jail and hopped straight into a bait car parked outside.   

"We've probably had six or seven who are repeat offenders on bait cars," said Detective Joel Harter, Fort Worth Police Department. "[They are] being recycled through the Tarrant County justice system."

Harter started Fort Worth's bait car program four years ago. His team just topped 600 arrests, 605 to be exact.

It's an accomplishment the National Insurance Crime Bureau wanted to award.