COLUMBIA - Two teens were taken into custody by Columbia police officers Tuesday night after attempting to steal a bait car police had left near Sheryl Court and Arlene Drive in southwest Columbia, Capt. Brad Nelson said.
After receiving reports of the stolen car traveling down Scott Boulevard and then tracking it through a Global Positioning System unit located inside the car, police remotely disabled the car's engine and detained the two occupants near the Georgetown Loop. Earlier on Tuesday, police parked several bait cars in the area in an effort to combat an increasing number of thefts from cars, Nelson said.
Nelson said this is the first instance in which juveniles stole a bait car, and not just its contents. The driver, a 15-year-old male, was arrested on suspicion of felony first-degree tampering. The passenger, also a 15-year-old male, was arrested on suspicion of second-degree tampering and misdemeanor stealing. Police took one of the teens to the Juvenile Justice Center and released the other to his parent. A cell phone from the bait vehicle was found in the passenger's possession.
Columbia police's bait car program started in December in response to an increasing number of auto thefts. Under the program, bait cars are placed in high-crime areas and equipped with an alarm system, a Global Positioning System and video and audio recording equipment, all of which help police track down the cars if they are stolen.
"I'm very pleased with the bait car program," Nelson said. "We certainly feel that it's been a major factor in auto theft reduction."
As of Aug. 1, auto thefts have declined 36 percent compared with the same time period in 2007, he said. Columbia police have made eight arrests related to the program.