Bait, or decoy vehicles, are “staged” vehicles police deploy to reduce thefts from and of vehicles. Their purpose is to assist police in identifying offenders and/or places ("chop shops"), where vehicles are broken down for parts or otherwise altered for resale.
To “bait” potential offenders into stealing either the vehicle or its contents, police select decoys of a make and model similar to those frequently targeted by thieves or commonly found in hot spot areas. Vehicles can be equipped with technology that locks the offender in the vehicle. Others have fuel cut switches or engines that are remotely disabled to prevent the theft of the vehicle; some are equipped with GPS tracking technology to allow police to follow the vehicle. Others have hidden audio and video recording systems. Items placed in the vehicle can be monitored through GPS tracking or marked with a unique identifier.
Use of this tactic is often combined with physical surveillance. Such vehicles can be deployed covertly or overtly and coupled with media campaigns.
Is the program based on research?
There was no evidence found that indicates this program is based on research.
Has the program been independently evaluated?
While there is some grey (non-peer reviewed) literature demonstrating some preliminary successes, there has not been any independent peer-reviewed evaluation of bait vehicles.
Was the program rigorously tested?
No such information is available.
Has the program evaluation been replicated?
We could not find any published, peer-reviewed studies to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.
Was the program tested in Canada?
Although some Canadian police agencies have deployed the use of bait vehicles, there is no existing peer-reviewed literature where the program was tested in Canada.
As there are no independent peer-reviewed evaluations available on the effectiveness of the bait vehicles, we cannot confirm its effectiveness. Existing grey literature points to how the consequences of deploying such a tactic can outweigh its potential benefits, including how resource-intensive and expensive it could be, combined with poor management, potential legal ramifications, and no guarantee of arrests. Such literature, which needs to be independently evaluated, suggests that bait vehicles need to be part of an overarching theft reduction strategy.
Assessor: John Ng, Saskatoon Police Service
John Ng is a divisional crime analyst with the Saskatoon Police Service and has been a law enforcement analyst for nearly 10 years. He’s a certified law enforcement analyst with the International Association of Crime Analysts and has been an active member having volunteered with their former Methods Subcommittee co-authoring a handful of technical papers on analytical methods including hotspot analysis, prioritizing offenders, and social network analysis and currently volunteers with their Publications Committee.
Reviewer: Dr. Rick Linden, University of Manitoba
Dr. Linden is a Professor of Sociology and Research Fellow with the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba. An expert on auto theft and thefts from autos, his research also focuses on policing, crime prevention, and community safety program evaluation.