Police put out bait for home burglars

Daily Post Correspondent

Home burglars in Atherton could be in for a nasty surprise under a new police program.

Atherton police department’s bait house program is officially up and running. Homes in the wealthy town have been equipped with valuable objects containing embedded GPS trackers. If the “bait” is moved, an alert will inform police and send them to the home to apprehend the thief.

Police Commander Dan Larsen declined to give more details about the setup of the homes to prevent tipping off suspects.

However, over 50 residents volunteered their residences as bait houses. He said the department will rotate through homes to try and let everyone participate.

“We strategically selected residences that we believe subjects will target,” said Larsen. “We did not do anything to the residences to entice or encourage subjects to burglarize them as we would be getting into entrapment laws.”

Catherine Crump, director of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law, agreed that the current setup doesn’t sound like an entrapment issue.

“It’s not going to be an entrapment issue because that requires the police to convince the thieves to commit the crime,” said Crump. “Stealing a device laden with police surveillance technology is just the person’s bad luck.”

Larsen said the GPS devices each cost $565.00 with a yearly $30.00 fee per device. He declined to say how many devices were purchased by the police.

Atherton has seen several burglaries recently. The town of about 6,600 has had 15 residential burglaries so far in 2024, and 17 residential burglaries in 2023.

No bait has been taken yet, according to Larsen. He said it would be great if the program deters burglars from hitting homes in Atherton.

Larsen said he has not heard of other towns with similar programs, but he has been contacted by other agencies who want information about Atherton’s program. In addition to the bait house program, Atherton already has 47 automated license plate readers to prevent crime and is in the process of adding three more. Twenty-six of the existing cameras were funded directly by residents concerned about crime.

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