FOX10 EXCLUSIVE: MPD ride along for undercover operation - FOX10 News | WALA

FOX10 EXCLUSIVE: MPD ride along for undercover operation

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MPD takes FOX10 undercover for their bait car operation. Photo: FOX10 News Reporter Alexa Knowles. MPD takes FOX10 undercover for their bait car operation. Photo: FOX10 News Reporter Alexa Knowles.

Mobile Police gave FOX10 News an exclusive opportunity to see a couple intense take downs of suspected car thieves.

Our Alexa Knowles rode along as undercover officers busted two guys Wednesday night during an undercover sting. We got a first hand look at how MPD plants bait cars to catch thieves. It's part of a city-wide operation to target crime at gas stations, because of a recent spike. 

With Major John Barber at the wheel and Alexa Knowles in the passenger's seat, our cameras were rolling as undercover officers set up at those gas stations around the city. For hours, we roamed the streets of Mobile. That gave us plenty of time to ask Barber some questions about the sting. 

Alexa: "What are you looking for, what are you trying to do tonight?" Barber: "In the last couple months, we've seen an uptick in a crime of opportunity." 

He's talking about people leaving their cars running in parking lots, and thieves taking them. Normally that happens about twice a month, but last month, MPD responded to nine of those crimes. In October, there were seven.

"We wanted to undertake an operation that really would address it. I don't think that anyone really fears taking the vehicle, that police would have a bait vehicle out there," says Barber. 

But Barber says they want people to think that, to deter them from doing it. Here's how it works: Undercover and on-duty officers set up around a location, leave the bait car with the engine running, and wait. They target places with groups of people loitering. When it doesn't work, they move on. As the sun goes down, the likelihood of catching a car thief goes up.

We learned that word travels fast in some parts of town. We heard some folks say they knew the truck that MPD was using was a bait car. MPD tries to use the car as many times as they can, until it becomes recognizable. 

But another move somewhere else, and it didn't take long to catch somebody. The bait car, a souped up truck with nice rims, irresistible for 21-year-old, Darnell King. The engine shut down remotely, so he couldn't get away.

We interviewed him after his arrest: 

Alexa: "Why are you in handcuffs?" King: "I don't know." Alexa: "Well what were you doing with that car? King: "I was getting the car out of the street, putting it in my auntie's yard, it was just in the middle of the street, I don't, I got a good job, I don't play like that."

Barber explained what happens now: "So now we're regrouping, and we're going to move on to the next one, that was a quick one, a success, and hopefully we get a couple more." 

At this point in the night, it's dark, and the officers take advantage of that and try out other gas stations. Then...another 21-year-old fell for the set up.

Dejuan French told investigators he thought the truck was fair game because someone "left it," but he didn't talk to us. 

Alexa: "Why'd you get in the car? French: "I don't know what you're talking about." Alexa: "The truck, they just pulled you out of." French: "I don't know what you're talking about."

That's two guys caught in one night; Barber called it a success. This latest bait car operation started last week, when officers busted two other guys. It's just one of many operations happening every night. 

"We do these kind of operations and a heck of a lot that we don't talk about every single day and every single night, I mean we're always trying to do something," says Barber.

The point in doing those stings, he says, is to make people think twice before taking someone's vehicle. Barber says the guys they catch, aren't usually career car thieves. 

But throughout the night, we found that a couple people did the opposite and actually reported the car to police. Proof that good people are doing the right thing.

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