Bait cars will get you a joyride to jail

Would-be car thieves may want to think again as local police have deployed “multiple” cars around the Grand Valley that serve as bait for thieves, according to Grand Junction Police Department spokeswoman Kate Porras.

The vehicles, which are not being identified by police, can be left unlocked and may have the car keys inside. If taken, police can track the vehicles using a Global Positioning System unit in the vehicles, Porras said.

“We don’t have a huge auto-theft problem here, but we need to do something before it becomes out of hand,” she said.

One suspect was caught in the sting last weekend, according to court reports.

Jerad Ian Slates, 35, 291 Holly Lane, was stopped in one of the vehicles by officers on Pinyon Avenue and 25 Road after being observed driving the “bait” vehicle. Slates was arrested Saturday on suspicion of first-degree auto theft and marijuana possession.

Officers from four law enforcement agencies — the Police Department, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, the Colorado State Patrol and the Fruita Police Department — make up the Western Colorado Auto Theft Task Force, which is conducting the sting operation.

Officers do the work as part of overtime pay through a $245,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Safety.

While the ratio of vehicle thefts are lower than in metropolitan areas of the state, local numbers of car thefts are growing, Porras said. Mesa County has the 10th highest number of auto thefts in the state, the Police Department said.

Some Mesa County residents unaccustomed to crime sometimes leave car keys in their vehicles and leave their car doors unlocked, Porras said.

Case in point, Porras said, one woman had her vehicle stolen in Grand Junction over the holidays while leaving her vehicle running as she dashed inside a home to deliver a food basket.

“We’re not Denver, where cars are getting stolen left and right, but it does happen,” she said.

Police in the unit also are tracking license plate numbers with a device that scans plates as vehicles go by. The license plate readers can be used while police are patrolling or while patrol cars are stationary. Police have caught people who are wanted on warrants, but that method has not yet uncovered any stolen vehicles, Porras said.


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