Chicago police caught using ‘bait truck’ in South Side neighborhood

Chicago police caught using ‘bait truck’ in South Side neighborhood

In what critics have decried as an inappropriate use of scarce public safety resources, Chicago police officials parked a “bait truck” reportedly filled with boxes of Nike sneakers in the city’s Englewood neighborhood.

Chicago police made three burglary arrests Aug. 2, responding to a series of rail yard thefts in the South Side neighborhood of Englewood. But after a pair of videos capturing the community’s reaction to one of those arrests went viral, many are calling into question the method by which officers apprehended these suspects.

Working on an investigation in cooperation with Norfolk Southern Railroad, according to the Chicago Tribune, law enforcement officials used a “bait truck” allegedly loaded with retail items such as boxes of Nike sneakers to lure potential thieves.

According to the Tribune, the investigation’s official title is “Operation Trailer Trap.” And in kind, civil liberties organizations argue the practice is a form of entrapment. The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois cautioned against the “stunt,” recommending instead that police “focus on building trust and better relationships within the communities they serve.”

Activist Charles McKenzie captured the moments following one of the arrests on camera, sharing video of the incident to his Facebook page Aug. 2. In the videos, onlookers are seen criticizing the arrest as “a setup,” as police officers detain a man for allegedly breaking into a bait truck.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th Ward, who represents the district where the bait truck was stationed, also criticized the tactic, denouncing the operation as an “unacceptable” and “inappropriate” use of scarce resources. “In a moment where police capacity is clearly under extreme strain,” the alderman said, “these sort of tactics are the last thing we should be spending manpower and energy on.”

The strained police capacities Sawyer highlights refer to a recent spell of violence that has plagued the city. A spate of shootings victimized 74 people the weekend of Aug. 3, the Tribune reported, marking Chicago’s most violent weekend of the year. That weekend ended with zero arrests. Since January, more than 1,700 people total have been victims of gunfire in Chicago.

One suspect arrested under Operation Trailer Trap, who is deaf and communicates through sign language, reportedly told officers he was searching for food. That suspect has been released on his own recognizance with another court date pending.

Law enforcement officials have deployed bait trucks in past sting operations as well. But they remain controversial applications of police resources. In a city with no shortage of larger problems on its radar, residents might wonder whether projects such as Operation Trailer Trap are efficient or effective uses of taxpayer money and government time.

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