Police in Dallas have outlined how they want to use a raft of new technology to help catch criminals more quickly and to secure convictions.
Chief Police David Brown has detailed the radical strategy to the City Council which he wants to foot the bill for this equipment.
“The technology consists of monitoring devices such as cameras, license-plate readers for squad cars and tracking equipment to help police capture bad guys more quickly and ensure convictions,” the Dallas Morning News reported.
While using the latest technology in crime initiatives is not particularly controversial there is another aspect to this strategy that may be.
Brown wants to invest in numerous “bait” items to temp would-be thieves and robbers.
His scope is ambitious. These could include cars, high tech gadgets such as computers and flat screen TVs and even houses and stores.
A bait house, according to the Dallas Morning News, looks like a normal home undergoing construction or renovation work, but would really be a front to catch criminals.
There will even be equipment lying around in these homes awaiting installation.
Bait cars would include sophisticated stereo systems or even a lap top sitting on the front seat. All of the bait items would be fitted with GPS tracking technology and cameras, to track the movements of the people who steal them.
Bait cars would have remote switches. As soon as a criminal drove one away a police officer would flick a switch and the steering wheel would lock up.
Using bait houses and bait cars has proved controversial in some jurisdictions because it raises questions about how close police are moving toward entrapment.
The issue of bait cars provoked a debate in Daytona Beach, Florida, where some opponents argued leaving a car in plain view with the keys inside and the engine running was enticing opportunistic criminals who might otherwise not offend.
The Florida law describes entrapment as when a person is “induced or persuaded” to commit a crime that he had no previous intent to commit, WFTV.com reported.
“They’re creating a crime, where no crime existed, until they put out this temptation,” said Daytona Beach defense attorney James Crock.
Under the Texas penal code it is a defense to a prosecution if the defendant was
“induced to do so by a law enforcement agent using persuasion or other means likely to cause persons to commit the offense.”
Although the section states conduct “merely affording a person an opportunity to commit an offense does not constitute entrapment,” there is a potential gray area if a house is left open with valuable equipment inside or a car is left unlocked with a lap top on the front seat, because this kind of behavior could be judged to be irresponsible by home or car owners who care about safeguarding their belongings.
Bait strategies have been used in some other cities. In New Orleans police have planted unlocked bikes in parts of the cities to target thieves.
While police have hailed the success of the strategy some community leaders have questioned whether it’s a waste of resources.
And there are other ways in which bait strategies can cost the taxpayers beyond the purchase bill for the equipment.
In 2010 Dallas City Council awarded $250,000 in settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit to the family of a woman who was killed by the driver of a “bait car.”
Anna Tovar Reyes was killed when a thief behind the wheel of a Dallas police “bait car,” hit her.