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Sentinel staff report–
Citrus Heights police say the department’s highly publicized “bait” program has helped lower property crime in the city.
The department regularly posts mug shots of recent bait arrests on its social media pages, with the goal of making sure would-be criminals know that if they steal in Citrus Heights, there’s a good chance it might be a bait item tracked by the police department.
According to Lt. Chad Morris, who helped launch the program in 2016, there have been a total of 48 bait-related arrests in Citrus Heights so far in 2019. Compared with last year’s total of about 100, there’s been less arrests this year — but Morris says that’s an indication that the program is working as a deterrent.
“We are very pleased with our current stats for the year,” said Morris in an email to The Sentinel, noting the drop in arrests. “We attribute (the drop in arrests) to a reduction in overall property crimes and feel that the bait program has played an integral role in reducing property crimes throughout the city over the past few years since we started the program. It is just one more tool in our toolbox, albeit a very effective one.”
In a report to the City Council earlier this year in April, Police Chief Ron Lawrence said property crimes had dropped by 11 percent in 2018 compared to the prior year. Burglary was down 12 percent, larceny theft dropped 11 percent, and motor vehicle theft dropped 8 percent.
Preliminary crime data for 2019 was not immediately available from police when requested Friday morning by The Sentinel.
How much jail time do bait thieves actually get?
Morris said a common “misperception” about bait arrests is that thieves are quickly released after being apprehended.
“As the public has learned, many crimes result in very little consequence,” said Morris. “This is not the case for our bait arrests.”
“These are felony grand theft offenses, and we are seeing them yield on average approximately 6 months behind bars,” he said. Some have also resulted in several years in prison, but Morris said the heightened sentences are usually due to “a combination of prior offenses that when coupled with the bait arrest yield more significant time in custody.”
This appears to be the case with one of the department’s latest bait arrests, where 29-year-old suspect Jennifer May Dupont was arrested on Aug. 14 on felony theft charges. With several outstanding arrest warrants, in addition to fresh charges, her bail was initially set at $121,000.
Following a court date last week, online inmate records show she is now ineligible for bail. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 3.
Morris said the police department plans to continue its bait program, calling it “a true force multiplier and one of the most fiscally responsible programs around.”
In addition to all the bait items being donated to the program, the lieutenant said “bait operates autonomously 24/7, and our officers only respond in the event that a theft occurs.” This enables officers to continue regular patrol duty and respond to other calls, rather than diverting time from other duties, he said.
“The bottom line is that if you come to Citrus Heights and you steal, you will be caught and you will go to jail!”
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