Set Bait, Catch Thief
Chevy Chase Village tries a new tactic to combat its rising theft rate: a bait car.
Thieves accustomed to stopping by Chevy Chase Village for a few easy laptops and GPS units may want to rethink their strategies.
With the village's new bait car program, they're much more likely to be caught.
The new program was suggested by Chevy Chase Village Police Chief John Fitzgerald as a way to combat the village's rising theft rate.
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So far this year, 68 thefts have been recorded in the village (as of Oct. 2), according to a memo from Fitzgerald to the Chevy Chase Village Board of Managers. In the six years from 2002 to 2007, the average number of thefts in the village each year was only 25, the memo added.
"If [this year's theft rate] continues through the end of the year, we will have a total of 88 thefts for 2012—which will be a 25-year high," Fitzgerald reported in the memo.
Most of this year's thefts have been from unlocked vehicles, Fitzgerald said at Monday's Chevy Chase Village Board of Managers meeting.
The bait car program is a new strategy to help the village combat the problem. The bait car (which will be donated—unequipped—by the Montgomery County Police Department) will be wired for video and audio recording, "and [will contain] GPS-equipped items (the 'bait') that the police can track remotely" when the items are stolen.
When a thief tampers with or enters the car, an alarm instantly will be sent to the village's communications office, which will dispatch police to the bait car. If the thief takes the bait, police will be able to track the thief via the GPS capabilities of the bait itself, according to Fitzgerald's memo.
Bait cars are being used already by the Gaithersburg and Montgomery County police departments, Fitzgerald said.
GEICO agreed to grant the village $4,000 to equip the bait car, which will have a Maryland license plate. After GEICO's grant, the bait car program will cost the village about $3,800 to equip and run through June 2013, and then about $2,700 a year after that.
Fitzgerald hopes the bait car program will help the village make more arrests, as well as decrease the number of thefts in the village each month. Fitzgerald is not against advertising the fact that the village has a bait car program, because if thieves know about the program (without knowing the specifics of the bait car), they might think twice about rifling through village cars, he added.
Still, one of the best ways to avoid having one's car burglarized is to lock the doors at night.
"One of the most prevalent ingredients to the success of these thieves ... is that we don’t lock the cars. Our numbers would go down dramatically if we would lock our cars," Fitzgerald said.