Community Transit program deters car theft

Posted on April 24, 2009

Snohomish County, Wash.-based Community Transit's bait car program has helped put a suspect in a string of car thefts behind bars. The last car he allegedly stole was from the agency’s bait car program. He was later arrested by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and has been charged with five counts of car theft.

The bait car program is designed to discourage would-be car thieves. Signs at all park & rides warn of the program. So, after two cars were stolen from the Mariner Park & Ride, a bait car was placed there. The suspect took the bait; that car and the other two stolen from the park & ride were recovered at a nearby apartment complex.

When the suspect stole the bait car, the trip was so short authorities did not have a chance to catch him in the act. But because the bait car was equipped with GPS, Sheriff’s deputies knew where the suspect left the vehicle.

With its tiny hidden cameras, the car recorded video and still pictures of him driving off. Authorities reviewed the tape, identified the suspect and later arrested him. In addition to the five charges of vehicle theft, the suspect also was charged with driving without a seatbelt and driving without a license.

Community Transit started its bait car program in 2007 as a way to reduce the number of vehicle thefts and prowls at its 20 park & ride lots. Part of the program includes posting signs at all park & rides warning potential thieves about the program. Vehicle thefts have dropped dramatically: from 82 in 2006, the last year before the bait car program, to just 20 in 2008. The three vehicles taken from the Mariner Park & Ride - including the bait car - are the only ones stolen so far this year.

“We want our passengers to feel safe when they leave a vehicle in one of our park & rides, and this program has greatly reduced the number of thefts,” said Community Transit CEO Joyce Eleanor. “The bait car program, along with our partnership with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, improves security at all of our park & rides.”


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