New DPD initiative aims to stop car thieves

Texas has the second largest number of auto thefts in the country and Dallas County comes in second behind Harris County in Houston.

While many North Texas agencies report an increase in auto thefts, Dallas police and a North Texas task force are working to put a dent in those numbers.   

The Dallas Police Department was one of the first in the country to deploy a bait car program.
It's largely believed to be responsible for the decline of auto thefts in the past, but as it turns out now, officers say the bait cars may not be the most powerful tool in their box.    
A Dallas man named Michael Thompson just picked up a 10-year prison sentence for stealing a bike out of the bed of a truck.
Thompson has a rap sheet that goes back nearly three decades and has 14 felonies;  most of them for theft.  

"Most people are like, ‘You know what? I'm done,’” said Sgt. James Johnson with the Dallas Police Department. “‘I got my stuff back; I just don't want to be bothered anymore. It's already been an inconvenience.’”
That’s why Johnson, who oversees the Dallas police bait car program, says they catch so many repeat offenders and career criminals like Thompson -- theft victims don't want to go to court and testify.

Since January, Johnson says they've arrested 29 people for stealing bait cars and arrested nearly 200 for stealing something out of a bait car, and those are just the numbers for their program.
"We are stepping into the place of the victim,” said Johnson. “We're making ourselves the victim of the crime and we are not walking away. We've got the video, we've got the time and we're making sure something gets done about it. And we're seeing these guys get a lot stronger sentences."
Sgt. J.D. Harris is on the Dallas County North Texas Auto Theft Task Force.
He believes his task force and the Dallas police bait car program are making a huge difference because they focus on those committing the most crimes.
"Most of our offenders that we catch, probably I'd say 94 percent of them had a record, so it's not their first rodeo, like I said,” said Harris.
"How many time have they done this and didn't get caught?” said Johnson. “We see their records of 10, 15, 20 arrests. That's the times they got caught; there may be hundreds of times they committed these crimes and they never got caught."

Dallas police say prosecutors love the program because there is video and the criminal is caught red handed, so it's pretty much a slam dunk, and with most of them being repeat offenders, the courts can give them a maximum sentence.

Johnson says they are planning on adding an additional 15 to 20 bait cars, giving the Dallas Police Department the distinction of having the largest bait car program in the country.