Atherton police, residents using ‘bait houses’ to catch burglars – NBC Bay Area

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The affluent Peninsula town of Atherton is using a very unique method to catch burglars.

Atherton has had a dramatic rise in home burglaries this year, double the rate of last year. It is also one of the most expensive towns in the country.

Recently, the Atherton Police Department came up with the idea of turning about 50 homes into “bait houses.” NBC Bay Area has decided not to show any of those homes involved in this story. But the bait is out there and waiting.

“What we’re doing is we’re embedding tracking devices into items of property that we believe subjects want to target when they’re committing burglaries,” said Atherton police commander Dan Larsen. “And so, the idea behind it is once one of these items starts being moved, we will get a notification at the police department, which is going to start our response.”

The police response is to launch a drone to follow the tracking device and there are about 50 mounted license plate readers in town that can detect the getaway vehicle and provide a description.

This is all in hopes of apprehending the burglars in the town of only five-square miles.

Residents NBC Bay Area talked to on Thursday were impressed.

“We have three of the license plate cameras surrounding the Lloyden Park neighborhood. Basically, I don’t like surveillance much, but I think this is an effective scheme,” said Atherton homeowner John Maulbetsch.

Police acknowledge the bait houses are similar to bait cars, as they are designed to tempt thieves. But emphasize with bait houses, there is no trying to entice burglars.

“We are not setting homes up to where, ‘Hey! come here. This is the house that we want you to burglarize.’ It is a home where we’re working with the community and they’re saying ‘Hey! we’re interested in this program,'” Larsen said. “We’re going into their homes, embedding those tracking devices on stuff that is already existing inside of the property and once it gets taken, then, we start our investigation.”

Much of the community seems to agree. The police department said more and more homeowners have said they’re willing to participate, enough so that police said they plan to rotate in different houses to place the bait.

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