“Metro Transit Police using innovative tactics to fight crime”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

From a WMATA press release:

“When a teenager tried to steal a bicycle parked outside of the Prince George’s Plaza station last night (Nov. 15), members of the Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) Crime Suppression Team immediately moved in and apprehended him.

What the young man did not know was that the bicycle belongs to the Metro Transit Police and officers in casual clothing were nearby, closely watching the bicycle and the person about to steal it.

MTPD is using innovative techniques, including decoy bicycles, to further reduce crime in the Metro system. The Crime Suppression Team targets bicycle thefts and snatch robberies, identifies suspects, and makes immediate arrests. Since the team began their efforts about a month ago, it has made dozens of arrests, stopping would-be bicycle thieves and robbery suspects trying to escape with victims’ electronic devices such as iPhones or cash. The team also has arrested individuals for simple assault, drug and weapons possession.

“We are employing new tactics to combat bike theft and theft of electronic devices, such as iPads and iPhones. The teams are doing a great job in addressing crime and keeping our customers safe,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn.

“During the holiday season we traditionally see an increase in robberies. While we’re taking steps to keep customers safe, we also need the public to do their part too,” Taborn said. “Remain aware of your surrounding and take steps to protect yourself and your property.”

34 Comment

  • They should set up shop in Columbia Heights. There are handfuls of teenagers that steal, refurbish (crazy, no?) and sell stolen bicycles.

    • Couldn’t agree more. The objections to “temptation” in some of the comments below smack of moral absolutism resting on poor foundations.

  • So, by “innovative tactics” you mean “entrapment”?

    • This is no where near entrapment. To entrap someone the police need to convince an individual to commit a crime that individual would not otherwise commit. In this case the police are just creating targets for thieves and catching the thieves in the act.

      • It’s baiting someone into stealing something so they can arrest them for it. You don’t know the person would otherwise commit a crime. Why not just watch the bikes that are already there?

        • The courts disagree with you, anon.

          • The courts disagree with me on a lot of things. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s silly to plant a bike rather than just watch for actual people’s bikes getting stolen. I am really glad to hear the cops’ planted bicycles will be protected this year.

          • That’s ridiculous. A person has free will, and therefore can choose (and is not forced) whether or not to take a bike that they know is not theirs. Therefore, not entrapment.

        • Probably because the police have to be able to prove that the item does not belong to the alleged thief. This is extremely easy to do if the police own the item.

        • It is perfectly legal, the police are not actively targeting the individual who is committing the crime. The individual is making a decision on his/her own to commit the crime. There needs to be some contact between police and the individual prior to individual committing the crime. That does not happen here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrapment

          • I’m not saying its not legal. I am saying conceptually I think it’s wrong and in accordance with the dictionary definition of the word. They aren’t even nabbing people who have the tools, etc to steal bikes and thus clearly do it regularly–the bikes are unlocked. We don’t know the person has stolen bikes before or otherwise ever would. They wouldn’t be guilty of “stealing bikes,” they would be guilty of stealing that particular bike that the cops planted there in order to bust them.

          • A lot of bike theft around here are people stealing wheels and seats that you don’t need any tools to take. If you have no interest in stealing, would it matter to you if a bike you walk by is unlocked or not? These people are making choices to steal.

          • so the police shouldn’t go after people who steal unlocked bikes because the temptation of an unlocked bike was too great to resist and turned innocent people into bike thieves?

          • Anonymous 4:25 PM, I don’t see any definitive indication in the press release that the decoy bikes are unlocked.

            My guess is that they’re locked, but with whichever locks/cables are easiest to break.

          • Anon, according to your logic, if a cop car was left running and someone jumped in and stole it it would be wrong to arrest them because:

            the person didn’t use any tools to take the car, doesn’t regularly steal cars, the car was unlocked, and we don’t know if they would have stolen the car if it was locked.

            The same goes for any police property. So if a cop puts his wallet or gun somewhere where it’s easily steal-able then anyone has immunity to steal it?

        • Entrapment means convincing someone who otherwise wouldn’t into committing a crime. I like to think I am quite normal, and I wouldn’t steal a bike I saw unlocked, so no entrapment there!

    • Parking a bicycle is not entrapment.

    • lol. less movies. more reading.

      • I only watch movies about conspiracies to take down innocent people for alleged bike theft. Is that wrong? And what’s this “reading” you speak of?

    • That word doesn’t mean what you think it does.

    • Yeah, I don’t think you know what entrapment is.

    • According to Oxford English Dictionary entrapment:

      Law. A method of criminal investigation in which the police instigate, initiate, or encourage the commission of a crime by a suspected offender in order to secure his or her arrest; the result of such action. (Used as grounds for defence outside the U.K.)

      Putting a bike there to see what happens is not instigating, initiating, or encouraging.

  • me

    YES! I love Bait Car. Make some episodes of Bait Bike. “Officer, a woman gave me it and told me to move it!”

  • I get that putting out an unlocked bike would be a bit more like entrapment than putting out a locked bike (Anonymous 4:25 point – though how do you know they are unlocked?), and getting the ‘typical’ bike thief would require using a (insufficiently) locked bike as a decoy. That said, practically I think this is the best they can do. Even if bike robberies are all too common, I think it would require more time than they have for the MTPD to wait for their locked bike decoy to get stolen than to wait for an attempt on a ‘free-take me’ bike decoy. Same goes for just monitoring non-decoy bikes at that station.

  • austindc

    Yeah, it’s not entrapment, and I dig this tactic. Maybe someday the police will open a bank and wait for it to get robbed? Anyway, I personally have no qualms with this tactic. But once I watched some cop show (yes, I’m white trash) and they planted a sexy sexy fancy pants bike that was made by Mercedes or something. Anyway, it was worth so much money that they could bust the bike thief on some bigger charge because he was stealing something so valuable. I thought that was kind of below the belt.

    Anyway, thanks Transit Police for all you do for us. Keep up the good work!

  • So y’all complain when people steal your stuff, and then you complain when someone actually tries to do something about it?

    I would prefer to say “YAAAAAAAAAAAY MTPD.” I’m glad that someone is addressing this problem.

  • In the video someone posted the bike isn’t locked

  • Locked or not locked they are still stealing the bike.
    The Cops should just shoot em.
    Clean up the streets and reduce crowding in the courts and jails.

  • How many undercover cops does it take to catch a 14 year old stealing an unlocked planted bike?

  • Yeah, not entrapment. Just good police work, catching the career bottom-feeders who make life miserable for the overwhelming majority of us who don’t commit petty theft.

    Of course, it’s always emotionally satisfying when the “good guys” catch and punish the “bad guy.” There’s no visceral thrill in taking the necessary follow-on step: rehabilitating the “bad guy.” And it’s even less fun — but no less necessary — to actually fix our social policies so that fewer kids became criminals (it can be done: look at … pretty much every other First World nation) rather than continuing our mad rush towards becoming the Mississippi of the industrialized nations.

  • So is this “innovative, plain clothed officers” policy responsible for an incident that occurred just outside the Petworth Metro turnstile about 2-3 weeks ago. My wife and I were exiting thru the gate and two, what I assumed were plain clothed police officers, tackled a male and handcuffed him. We didn’t stick around to see what it was all about, but if anyone else witnessed it let me know.

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