By Tristan Hallman
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS — In their hunt for an 11th straight year of crime reduction, Dallas police say they're going to need more bait.
Next month, police officials plan to bring a proposal to the City Council to increase the number of bait cars. The cars, usually transformed from frequently stolen vehicles, are equipped with GPS tracking technology that alerts police as soon as the cars or their contents are taken.
Chief David Brown told members of the City Council's Public Safety Committee on Monday that auto theft numbers appear to have plateaued and that police need to refocus their efforts.
"We want to saturate the city with these bait cars," Brown said.
Auto thefts are up 3 percent over last year, but other property crimes are down by double-digit percentages, according to the department's statistics. Overall, the department reports that auto thefts are down 57 percent over the last decade.
Bait cars were the predominant factor in that drop, Brown said.
"It's been the key component because the technology is so real-time," he said.
Brown has said his goal was to get two bait cars for each of the department's 27 crime hot spot target areas. The department currently has about 14 cars.
"We move them around a lot to create the illusion of a lot of them, but there are just 14," he said.
And demand for the technology within the department is outpacing supply, he said.
Maj. Scott Bratcher of the homeland security and tactical intelligence division said the department doesn't have all 14 in the field at the same time. Some need maintenance and technology upgrades.
Bratcher said that as of Sunday, the cars have led to 26 arrests this year.
The equipment needed to outfit the cars as bait cars can cost about $10,000, he said.
Brown said he hopes to find money in the department's budget for more bait cars. He also wants to buy more Tasers but plans to use funds confiscated during criminal investigations to do so.
Gary Griffith, the president of private philanthropic police booster group Safer Dallas Better Dallas, said his organization has committed to buying equipment for four more cars in the immediate future.
The group has helped the department buy surveillance cameras, license plate readers and other technology. Brown said he may also rely on the group's help to outfit officers with uniform-worn cameras. The department is field-testing the cameras before making any final decisions.
Griffith said Safer Dallas Better Dallas officials plan to meet with Brown in the coming weeks to determine technological priorities.
"If he needs us to do more, we'll certainly respond," Griffith said.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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