Police Bait Cars - Using Computers and Technology to Catch Criminals
written by: Finn Orfano•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 1/31/2011
A Bait Car is a vehicle rigged by law enforcement with kill switches for the engine as well as locks for the doors and windows. With the help of GPS and wireless networking technology, police officers can use them to safely apprehend car thieves.
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Have you ever seen one of those Bait Car police videos on the news where it shows some unsuspecting car thieves freaking out when the engine of their stolen vehicle shuts off and they are locked inside? Sometimes their reactions are as hilarious as they are sad, but it’s hard to feel sorry for anyone who would steal someone else’s car, especially if it is a car rigged up with hidden cameras and a GPS tracking system. Bait Cars are used by law enforcement agencies all across the country. Even the Gulfport Police Department in south Mississippi has one, and they've already put two criminals behind bars with it.
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Is that a Bait Car?
You can turn pretty much any vehicle into a Bait Car because all the hardware required is meant to be hidden from view. Once the required technology is installed, there is absolutely no way that you can look at a car and tell if it is rigged up as a Bait Car. There are no special wires or anything obvious that someone would notice, so a law enforcement agency could put the car out on the street in broad daylight or at night. The idea is to put it in an area with a high frequency of auto theft to see if anyone takes the Bait.
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How a Bait Car works
The way the system works is a brilliant combination of computer software and hardware mixed with cutting edge wireless communications technology. The vehicle is wired with kill switches to the motor as well as to all the doors and windows, and even the horn. Cameras are also installed using small video lenses not much bigger than the tip of a pencil. The system, which runs off a battery, remains dormant until someone opens the door, trunk, or hood of the vehicle, at which point it turns on and sends out alerts, via text message, to the police department who deployed the Bait Car. The cameras also start recording. When it activates, there is no sound or anything that might clue in the would-be thief as to who really owns the vehicle.
Using specially configured software on a regular desktop PC, it shows a map with a graphic of the Bait Car and its location, direction, and speed. This becomes available immediately upon the system being activated. The video cameras also feed into a DVR system that has a wireless air card attached, so it essentially turns the car into a moving web server where the police can view the inside of the vehicle in real time, via the Internet. The entire video is also recorded into the DVR system for later viewing.
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The beauty of this system is that not only does the GPS allow the police officers to track the exact location of the vehicle, but the cameras let them see who they are up against. They can see if the thieves have any weapons, and they can even listen to what they are saying thanks to hidden microphones. While the thieves are driving off, the police carefully get into position to apprehend them, and the order to kill the Bait Car motor and lock down the doors and windows is given whenever the officers are ready to move in. There is no car chase and nobody gets hurt, plus it helps get criminals off the streets. It’s a win-win situation for both the good citizens and law enforcement.