New eyes and ears for HPD

June 11, 2009 4:58:04 PM PDT
Houston police have brand new eyes and ears for their bait car program. When it comes to catching car thieves in the act, this top-notch technology is not only changing the playing field, it's giving Houston police an extra edge.

"We try to make the car look just like everybody else's," said Sgt. J.W. Smith of the Houston Police Department.

The guy behind the wheel of this car doesn't seem to know the difference. What he doesn't realize is the car he just ripped off is a decoy, a bait car rigged with GPS tracking and surveillance technology to capture thieves just like him.

A kill device installed in the vehicle allows police to remotely disable the engine.

"As you can see, this guy is looking for something to steal," said Sgt. Smith.

While HPD has been using them for years, brand new technology is giving Houston police the upper hand. For the first time, they can take advantage of live-streaming audio and video. It's all being done out of officer safety.

With this latest technology, police will be able to see and hear what the bad guys are doing in real time.

"If they are talking about confronting the police after they are stopped, we'll know about it. We can forward that to the officers making the stop," said Sgt. Smith.

As we've seen before, the hidden cameras catch all sorts of behavior. Before his arrest, one guy is caught rifling through a purse that was planted in the vehicle. He then ditches it for a laptop, all while he's driving.

Another one decides to rummage through the car, but suddenly gets cold feet just before turning the ignition.

Being able to see this in real time "allows us a lot more choices to make and the possibility of arresting some bigger fish," said Sgt. Smith.

So far, police have made 21 arrests this year using bait vehicles.

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