A bait car, also called a decoy car or rat trap, is a vehicle used by a law enforcement agency to capture car thieves. The vehicles are specially modified, with features including GPS tracking, hidden cameras that record audio, video, time, and date, which can all be remotely monitored by police. A remote controlled immobiliser (known as a "kill" device in law enforcement jargon) is installed in the vehicle that allows police to disable the engine and lock the doors.
The car is filled with valuable items and then parked in a high-vehicle theft area. In some cases, the vehicle is simply left unlocked with the keys hanging from the ignition. When the car is stolen, officers are alerted, who then send the radio signal that shuts off power to the engine and locks the doors, preventing an escape. The practice does not violate entrapment laws, since suspects are not persuaded to steal the vehicle by any means other than its availability and their own motivation.[dubious ]
The concept and technology was first developed by Jason Cecchettini of Pegasus Technologies and was used by the Sacramento Police Department in 1996, using Sedans like the Toyota Camry, and sports cars, such as the Honda Prelude.
The bait car is a phenomenon in the study of criminal behavior since it offers a rare glimpse into the actions and reactions of suspects before, during and after the crime. Unlike other crimes caught on surveillance cameras, suspects, at least initially, believe and react as if the crime has been wholly successful, until the bait car is apprehended by law enforcement personnel.
The largest bait car fleet in North America is operated by the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT), based in Surrey, British Columbia. Surrey was designated the "car theft capital of North America" by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 2002. Their program was launched in 2004, and has contributed to a 10% drop in auto thefts since then.
A LoJack is a similar technology, in that it allows a vehicle to be remotely tracked if it is stolen. These are typically installed in police vehicles.
Bait cars can be used as part of a honey trap, a form of sting operation, in which criminals not known to the police are lured into exposing themselves. Unlike a sting operation that targets a known or suspected criminal, a honey trap establishes a general lure to attract unknown criminals.
Bait cars (and the stings they are used in) have been featured in numerous documentary or reality television programs, including COPS and World's Wildest Police Videos. They are also the exclusive focus of a 2007 Court TV (now truTV) series simply titled Bait Car.
 See also
- ^ CTV News article
- ^ IMPACT launches baitcar website.
- ^ "Primetime Special on Court TV: Bait Car". [courttv.com].
 External links
- BBC report on car crime
- "New device to stop car thieves"
- BaitCar.com - Official website of IMPACT's bait car program in British Columbia. Includes on-board videos of bait cars being stolen.
- BSM Wireless - Manufacturer of systems for bait car programs including those featured on baitcar.com