If car thieves in Chevy Chase Village keep succeeding at their current rate, the town will suffer more auto related thefts this year than it has in 25 years.
That’s according to Chevy Chase Village police chief John Fitzgerald, who tonight at the Village’s monthly Board of Managers meeting will propose a police bait car to easily catch those who boost items from cars and deter others from plying their trade in the Village.
“We need a new strategy, and bait car technology will improve our chance of success,” Fitzgerald wrote in a memo to the Board.
The car, which would be donated and is already being held by Montgomery County Police, would include sound and video surveillance equipment, a GPS to track items a thief might take out of the car and a system that would immobilize the car before a thief could drive it across the Washington, D.C. line.
Fitzgerald will ask for $3,800 from this year’s budget to equip and operate the car. Auto insurance company GEICO has pledged $4,000 to sponsor the program and Fitzgerald said he’s kept the cost of the proposal minimal by partnering with MCPD.
The Board set aside $25,000 in this fiscal year’s budget for Crime Fighting Technology.
So far this year, there have been 68 reported thefts from cars in the Village, a 0.4-square-mile residential neighborhood of about 2,000.
That number has already surpassed last year’s total of 67, which itself was an increase of the 2002 to 2007 yearly average of 25 thefts. Local law enforcement officials have long said Chevy Chase is a target for car thieves because of its well known wealth and proximity to D.C.
Fitzgerald wrote the real hope with the bait car is deterrence.
“We know that thieves talk to each other, so the word on the street of bait car-related arrests will serve as a general deterrent to other would-be thieves,” Fitzgerald wrote. “There is no doubt that the thieves who ply their trade in the Village do so in surrounding communities in DC and Maryland; the intelligence we collect by arresting individuals here is extremely valuable to the police agencies in the area.
“We want to reduce the number of theft crimes in the Village and to reduce the number of thieves who come to the Village. We don’t want criminals to spend time here at all; bad things – things other than thefts – might happen when bad people spend time in our community.”
The Board meets tonight (Monday) at Chevy Chase Village Hall (5906 Connecticut Ave.). The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. and the police presentation is slated for 7:50 p.m.