Dallas bait-car program reaches 200 arrests

By Steve Thompson
The Dallas Morning News 

DALLAS The bait: a high-end SUV with shiny chrome 23-inch rims.

The hook: a remote device that locks its doors and cuts its engine.

The fishermen: Dallas police officers.

The fish: three young men who police say tried to steal the SUV from a street in Oak Cliff.

But things didn't go exactly as planned for police early Thursday when one of the suspected car thieves bailed out of the driver's seat through a window and left the SUV rolling down Glenfield Avenue.

The suspect tumbled into some garbage cans and a brick mailbox, got up, and started running. The SUV smashed into a parked 1973 Volkswagen Beetle and came to rest atop its hood.

Police dispatchers received an electronic signal shortly before 3 a.m. that someone had taken the SUV bait. Officers converged on it with help from its GPS tracking system.

One of the thieves drove the SUV while two others followed in an older model Buick. The three planned to remove the chrome rims, then ditch the SUV, police say.

Officers pulled in behind the Buick. As the SUV was traveling about 25 mph, they cut its engine. The driver, appearing to realize he was in trouble, crawled out of the window with the SUV still rolling.

Officers caught him after a foot chase, and they pulled over his suspected accomplices nearby. Agency officials hope such arrests will help reduce the number of car thieves on the street.

"By the way they were acting, it's not their first," said Officer Greg Fregeau, one of the bait car investigators. He said the SUV had been left on the street only a couple of days before the three tried to steal it.

The SUV's driver was 17-year-old Jesse Leo Savala of Dallas. Police say the Buick's driver was 18-year-old Ricardo Miranda of Dallas. They face theft charges. Police released the third man from custody pending further investigation.

The two arrests put the bait-car program's total at 200. It began in 2004.

Copyright 2007 Dallas Morning News

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