Police using 'bait' to stop car thieves, break-ins

Wayne State University Police teams up with DTE Energy to stop car thefts in Midtown

DETROIT – A partnership in Detroit's Midtown is helping stop car break-ins and thefts.

Wayne State University Police Chief Anthony Holt said in order to fight crime, officers need to be prepared with a variety of different tools. His department often deploys a tool they refer to as a bait car.

The bait cars are provided by DTE Energy, and come fully equipped with cameras that officers can monitor around the clock.  

Michael Lynch, chief security officer for DTE, normally works to catch thieves trying to steal electricity from his company, but he also helps police departments by providing bait cars.

"We put as many as 18 cameras both inside and out of the car and sometimes underneath the car," said Lynch. "Somebody gets in this car they are going to be videotaped."

The cars are also outfitted with something valuable to catch a would-be thief's eye.  That can include a cellphone box or a laptop.

Using data collected on recent crimes, Wayne State University Police gives DTE locations to place the bait cars.   Every two weeks Wayne State police hold Compstat meetings, in which officers and other agencies in the Midtown community come together to highlight crime hot spots and develop plans to stop the thefts from occurring.

"We can look at the stats to see where we have a spike in auto crimes or break in of vehicles and what a great opportunity to take a bait car and put it in that area," said Officer Holt. "No one agency, especially a small agency like Wayne State is going to be able to do this alone. So the key is you have to create partnerships and one of the partnerships we created is with DTE."

DTE Energy is putting bait cars out every week in Midtown. The company began offering its service to Wayne State Police Department, but it also does it for Detroit police, Dearborn police and other area agencies.

Once the cars are in place, they are monitored 24/7 by police.

"We're observing them before they even open the door, we're observing them as they walk up to the car," said Holt. "But once they're in the car, whether it's a 'smash the window grab something' or an attempt to steal the car within 90 seconds, we're going to be right there."

The bait cars have been successfully used to arrest and prosecute car thieves.

DTE Energy provides the service because the company feels it's important to give back to the community.

"We want to be part of something good about changing the perception of the city of Detroit," Lynch said. "We want to be part of the revitalization of the city."