Police bait Whitehorse car thieves with... cars

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Police bait Whitehorse car thieves with... cars

Whitehorse police are trying out a big-city tactic to crack down on vehicle thefts — setting out "bait cars" to tempt would-be thieves.

RCMP say the police-owned vehicles are meant to be stolen. The bait is laid "in various fashion, in various areas," with an emphasis on high-theft areas, said Sgt. Ian Fraser.

"It'll be difficult, if not impossible, to detect which is going to be a bait car. So someone who is intent on stealing a vehicle is now just going to be taking a chance, that extra risk," said Fraser.

Police are notified as soon as movement is detected near the vehicle. Then, once the vehicle hits the road, police can track it by GPS.

Police can also control the stolen vehicles remotely — for example, disabling the engine if public safety is believed to be at risk. 

"Bait cars are everywhere. Steal one. Go to jail," says an RCMP news release.

Fraser says the program has been in place since January, and one person has already been arrested.

Success elsewhere

Similar bait cars are already used by RCMP in B.C. and Alberta. In B.C., where the program has been in place for more than a decade, RCMP credited the program with a significant drop in vehicle thefts.

The Whitehorse program was set up with the help of Alberta RCMP's Auto Theft Unit. Fraser credits two officers recently posted to Yukon for spearheading the initiative. He says they were both familiar with the tactic from previous postings. 

"They were the driving force," Fraser said.

Yukon RCMP say since January, 24 vehicles have been reported stolen around Whitehorse, including cars, trucks, snowmobiles and ATVs. Nineteen of those have been recovered.

Fraser says they're publicizing the program so thieves will be deterred, and the public reassured.

"We also want the public aware of the fact that we're trying to do something about this problem," he said.