Car Bait: Easy Auto Theft But A Jury Acquittal


The Washington, D.C., bait car program to catch auto thieves didn’t catch on with the first jury that heard one of its cases, says the Washington City Paper. Calvin Richardson, a homeless man, was arrested in the program that is supported by $350,000 in federal grant money and insurance-company donations. Last year, police began planting cars outfitted with tracking devices, audio and video recorders, and mechanisms deployed to control the cars' speed and engine in the city's worst auto-theft spots.

By giving would-be perps bait cars to steal, the logic went, cops save taxpayers a lot of grief and insurance companies a lot of dough. Richardson was one of the first of 15 arrerts in the program. It took jurors a few hours to acquit him last month of a felony auto-theft charge. They found him guilty of the lesser offense of unauthorized use of a vehicle. “I think that the police department should not be in the business of inviting people to commit a crime,” says juror Suanne Buggy. “It's outrageous that the auto-theft unit is spending valuable resources on a program that is basically catching individuals who are in the wrong place and the wrong time.” Another juror said, “We felt sorry for him. We didn't see him as a car thief.” Richardson spotted the car idling in a parking lot. He said: “It was unusual. Nobody leaves their car running, keys in it and it not be attended.”


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