Chicago residents angrily confronted law enforcement last week when they discovered police were setting up “bait trucks” around neighborhoods to entice and catch thieves, according to Vox.
Local crime prevention activist Charles McKenzie recorded video of one exchange between residents and police, which at times became heated and vulgar.
“Y’all dirty, man,” one bystander shouts at the gathered officers. “Y’all see kids playing ball and you pull a f***ing Nike truck into the ghetto.”
Law enforcement (the agency has not been identified at this point) parked a large truck filled with expensive shoes in Englewood, a neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago, and left it open to lure people into trying to steal the merchandise.
Residents were angry because the truck was allegedly parked near a park where young kids were playing basketball, making it seem to them like police were targeting young people in a mostly black area for arrest.
“There were a lot of young guys playing basketball,” Mckenzie said to Vox. “Why would they do that in the poorest communities to people who don’t have anything better?”
Englewood has a poverty rate of between 40 and 60 percent, depending on the source of the estimate.
Despite the shock and anger from the Englewood residents, baiting tactics by police are not new. And, if used properly, many people agree that they can be an effective deterrent.
“The basic criteria should be if police are trying to catch crime happening on its own, or are they trying to create crime where it otherwise wouldn’t happen,” American Civil Liberties Union analyst Jay Stanley told Mic in 2015. “I don’t think a bait object — if used the way everyone imagines it’s used, which is to catch a thief — is a civil liberties problem.”
Still, some fear that baiting tactics can contribute to racially imbalanced policing, particularly in cases like Englewood when the bait is placed in a poor minority neighborhood where they have the potential to entice someone who might not normally steal into becoming a criminal.
Police rely on bait tactics to deter cargo theft, which the FBI reported resulted in $27 million worth of lost property in 2016.