- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2002

The battle against car thieves in Arlington has gone high-tech: Arlington police have equipped a fleet of "bait" cars with sensors that notify emergency communication centers when someone breaks in or tries to drive it away.
Police park the car, loaded with computer equipment, in areas that are hard-hit by auto theft, said Arlington County Police Department spokesman Matt Martin. When the electric trap is sprung, officers swoop in and scoop up the surprised thieves.
Arlington County, which had 700 car thefts in 2001, is the first jurisdiction in the country to use the new HGI Wireless system. Since February, the sting operation has resulted in the arrests of four men.
Police, concerned about tipping off other would-be car thieves, won't release the number of bait cars, disclose the type of cars they are, or detail where they are located. But they do say they use more than one.
"We generally use the type of cars that tend to get stolen," said Mr. Martin.
The bait cars look so much like normal cars that car thieves can drive it without even knowing the police are monitoring them with global positioning technology.
A loud trumpeting sound rings in the Arlington County Police Department's Emergency Communications Center whenever the car's sensors are disturbed, Mr. Martin said.
Communications officials, with the ability to shut off the bait car's engine, alert police to the location of the car and track it during a pursuit. When the bait car is in a good location, operators remotely pull the plug on the ignition switch and let police move in for the arrest.
Other bait car programs, with officers hiding in the cars or continually checking them, are in use nationwide, but Mr. Martin said Arlington's effort, which cost $3,000 to implement, requires much less manpower.
"It's a great system because it's completely passive on the part of the police," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if more areas use it."

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