Arlington Police bait cars continue to foil would-be thieves

A would-be car thief gets caught on camera and puts his hands up when police swoop in on the bait car. Photo: Arlington Police

For a car thief, it seems like a clean getaway. They chance upon a car that looks ripe for picking, get in and drive away.

Then, almost magically, the car shuts down. The thief has been caught by a bait car. And in Arlington, they're not only incredibly useful in catching would-be car thieves, but the videos generated during the process are admittedly quite funny.

In Arlington, the bait cars are outfitted with cameras, microphones and kill switches. At a moment's notice, authorities can shut the vehicle down and lock the doors, trapping the thief while police arrive to apprehend them. Police say that those who are caught by the bait care are usually not rookie criminals.

"We can tell that by the manner in which they try to steal the vehicle, if it's a beginner versus someone that's a little more seasoned," Arlington County Police detective Chris Dengeles said.

In a decade of using bait cars in the county, Arlington Police officials say 80 percent of its more than 200 cases are actual break-ins.

The videos produced from the cases that are taken to court are Internet hits - one detective even called them "quite hilarious" - but there's more than laughs to be had from these videos and bait cars.

"I think it's very useful," Arlington resident Amit Maotra said. "This is one of the best ways to catch someone who is stealing a car."

Some carry the notion, though, that since the thefts of the bait car keep happening, it isn't acting as much of a deterrent. That, though, may lie in the thieves themselves and not the idea of the dummy car.

"You don't think you're as stupid as them," Arlington resident Demi Argiropoulous said of the thieves. "You're leaving your fingerprints all over everything."