bait car
n. A vehicle, monitored by the police, that is used to tempt a car thief into stealing it. Also: bait vehicle (1996), bait truck (1999).
bait-car adj.

Example Citations:
Johnson joined the Vancouver police in an operation to trap thieves with "bait cars."

The vehicles, equipped with disabling devices and global-positioning equipment, are parked in a lot where thieves have been active.

The police use cars that are at the top of thieves' shopping lists, such as the Dodge Caravan and the Honda Civic.

The bait-car program is well known to car thieves, who consider the practice unsporting, Johnson says.
—Brian Gorman, "The Brockville Recorder & Times (Brockville, Ontario), October 24, 2003

It looks just like any other car, parked in front of a convenience store, an apartment complex parking lot or out on the street.

Ah, but the key's been left in the ignition. Candy to the eyes of a would-be car snatcher. The thief gives the car the once-over, opens the passenger door, steps inside and starts it up.

Little does he know that every move he's made since he touched the car is being monitored via satellite by a state-of-the-art tracking service in San Antonio.

Within minutes, a patrol car pulls up from behind - and the thief is on his way to jail.

The vehicle is one of several "bait cars" the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is using to combat auto theft in the Queen City.
—Maki Becker, "Tracking down car theives," Charlotte Observer, February 22, 1999

Earliest Citation:
Park officials acquired some alarms that could be checked out at the visitor center. The alarms were simple to operate and emitted an 85-decible noise when tripped. Because other people were always nearby, the alarms solved the problem of campground auto burlary.

"We've not had a car broken into since then," Larson said. "But this only works where there is someone around to hear the alarm."

Backcountry trailheads pose a different problem. The federal government has a variety of sophisticated listening devices, but they usually are used in border patrols and marijuana patch surveillance, according to McCormick.

"Sometimes we have a bait car, put a device in it and see whether it is disturbed," McCormick said. "But this is such a quick act. You need a law enforcement officer right there."
—Terry Richard, "Prevention can stop car clouts on the prowl at forest parking lots," Portland Oregonian, October 18, 1989

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