bait car
n. A vehicle, monitored by the police, that is used to tempt a car thief into stealing it.
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Johnson joined the Vancouver police in an operation to trap thieves with "bait cars."

The vehicles, equipped with disabling devices and global-positioning equipment, are parked in a lot where thieves have been active.

The police use cars that are at the top of thieves' shopping lists, such as the Dodge Caravan and the Honda Civic.

The bait-car program is well known to car thieves, who consider the practice unsporting, Johnson says.
—Brian Gorman, “Bait-Car Program,” The Brockville Recorder & Times (Brockville, Ontario), October 24, 2003
It looks just like any other car, parked in front of a convenience store, an apartment complex parking lot or out on the street.

Ah, but the key's been left in the ignition. Candy to the eyes of a would-be car snatcher. The thief gives the car the once-over, opens the passenger door, steps inside and starts it up.

Little does he know that every move he's made since he touched the car is being monitored via satellite by a state-of-the-art tracking service in San Antonio.

Within minutes, a patrol car pulls up from behind - and the thief is on his way to jail.

The vehicle is one of several "bait cars" the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is using to combat auto theft in the Queen City.
—Maki Becker, “Tracking down car theives,” Charlotte Observer, February 22, 1999
1989 (earliest)
Park officials acquired some alarms that could be checked out at the visitor center. The alarms were simple to operate and emitted an 85-decible noise when tripped. Because other people were always nearby, the alarms solved the problem of campground auto burlary.

"We've not had a car broken into since then," Larson said. "But this only works where there is someone around to hear the alarm."

Backcountry trailheads pose a different problem. The federal government has a variety of sophisticated listening devices, but they usually are used in border patrols and marijuana patch surveillance, according to McCormick.

"Sometimes we have a bait car, put a device in it and see whether it is disturbed," McCormick said. "But this is such a quick act. You need a law enforcement officer right there."
—Terry Richard, “Prevention can stop car clouts on the prowl at forest parking lots,” Portland Oregonian, October 18, 1989
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