Bait car designed to discourage thieves

Auto thieves beware: That car you're thinking of taking might take you off the streets instead.

The San Diego Police Department got a new tool today in the fight against vehicle thefts -- a high-tech "bait car'' booby-trapped to nab crooks.

The vehicle, which will be parked in high-risk neighborhoods, is outfitted with hidden cameras, a global-position system, an engine "kill switch'' and devices that lock in thieves and set the horn honking.

Police showed off the technology with a demonstration vehicle parked in front of the headquarters building. To avoid tipping off thieves, officials did not display the actual vehicle or disclose its make and model.

During a late-morning briefing, SDPD Chief William Lansdowne accepted the keys to the decoy vehicle from representatives of Allstate Insurance Co., which made the roughly $25,000 donation as part of a nationwide program.

"This vehicle and the technology that comes with it is going to assist us in further reducing the number of auto thefts,'' Lansdowne said. "In fact, if you steal a car, it might belong to the San Diego Police Department now.''

San Diego is one of 14 U.S. cities to receive a bait car donated by Allstate, according to the insurance firm.

By learning to "think like a thief," people can significantly reduce their likelihood of becoming a car theft victim. Common sense techniques such as always locking your vehicle, parking in well-lit spaces, and closing all windows and the sunroof are a good start to prevention.

   
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