It's something that happens every day, in fact it's the most common crime in Metro Detroit. But now something is being done to stop smash and grab robberies.
Surveillance video shows the robberies can even happen in broad daylight on busy Woodward Avenue in Midtown.
As the camera rolls it shows one guy smashing a window and helping himself to all the valuables inside the car. If something is in plain view it's gone. But he also knows where to look. He knows your favorite hiding places, like the center console. It's called a smash and grab, the crime is over in just seconds. By the time you return to your vehicle you're greeted with broken glass and the horrible discovery that all of your valuables have vanished.
Michael Lynch, Chief Security Officer for DTE said, "smash and grabs are the most prolific, the most repeated crime in the downtown area. And it feeds a stereotype that people have about the city, that it's not a safe place to visit." DTE is based in Detroit, they asked, what can we do to help police fight crime? What they did was stuff this trunk.
Thousands of dollars in high-tech, high-def video and sound recording equipment. This is what's known as a 'bait car.' DTE has several of these vehicles. They look like any other car. But mounted inside a side-view mirror is a tiny camera. In fact, each bait car is loaded with cameras and they all transmit images via WI-FI to police. It works like a charm.
Officers are staked out nearby and as soon as someone breaks into a bait car, police move in. During 2012 police arrested more than 100 suspects, all seen committing a smash and grab.
The bait car also gets arrests after a window is busted at Wayne State's book store. The guy stole clothing before going to jail. And a sparkling new grocery store was also hit. Michael Solaka grew up stocking shelves for his dad at Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe in Lafayette Park, now his new location on Woodward in Midtown using the same name is open. A bait car camera showed a smash and grab at the store. But Wayne State police who were watching responded and made an arrest. "It's a big city, an urban area, there's always some folks up to no good. But no doubt Wayne State University, they have been stellar" Solaka said.
Wayne State professor David Martin an expert at tracking crime tells law enforcement where to park the bait cars. "We know where the crimes are going to occur. In many cases we know who is going to commit it," Martin said.
Security experts offer this advice, when you park, put valuables in the trunk. Street parking is smash and grab territory. Parking on an attended lot offers more security. Smash and grabs are also rare in parking ramps. And finally to the bad guy, smile you're on a bait car camera.
Dennis Richardson with the Wayne County Sheriff's Department said, "it's always nice when you can show the bad guy his picture."