Crime - Sacto 911

Bait packages help Sacramento police nab six alleged porch thieves

The Sacramento Police Department has made six bait package arrests in the past weeks after beefing up the program for the holiday season.

The arrests came at a time when thieves take advantage of an increase in online ordering and home deliveries by swiping packages from front porches when owners are away, said Linda Matthew, a spokeswoman for the Police Department.

“It’s a crime of opportunity, and there’s definitely more of them, especially with the popularity of online ordering,” Matthew said.

The bait packages work like this: Officers leave a decoy bundle equipped with a GPS on the front porch of a house with the owner’s permission. The GPS devices, similar to the ones used for Sacramento Police Department’s bait-bike program, track the thief once a package has been stolen.

In Sacramento, the most recent arrests came on Jan. 1 when officers were alerted of a bait package activation in the 2300 block of Haldis Way in south Sacramento. Officers were led to a restaurant roughly 2 miles away on Freeport Boulevard, where they found Tara Westford, 38, and Ronnie Bartholomew, 48, of West Sacramento.

The pair were arrested for conspiring to commit petty theft and possession of stolen property, according to a Police Department press release.

Four additional arrests have been made since Dec. 16, according to Matthew. She said the arrests showed no clear pattern, happening at different times and places across the city.

On Dec. 16, an early-morning bait package activation in the 4000 block of 62nd Street in the Tahoe Park area led to the arrest of Marcus Wandick, 35, a block away. That night, at around 9:15 p.m., officers were sent to the 1800 block of 25th Street in midtown Saramento for a decoy package theft. Officers arrested Michael Lumford, 59, for petty theft and an outstanding warrant.

Police arrested Lesa Laatz and Michael Collier on Dec. 30 after they received an alert at 1:36 p.m. of a package that had been moved from its location on 26th and R streets in midtown.

Matthew said the Police Department would continue to use the bait packages as part of its larger bait program, which includes bait cars, bait bikes and bait copper to lure would-be metal thieves.

“Our goal is to be transparent with this,” Matthew said. “We want criminals to think twice if they are going to steal something in Sacramento.”

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets

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