UPDATE: Charges have been dropped against three individuals arrested for breaking into a bait truck left near a Chicago basketball court in a low-income neighborhood.
The Norfolk Southern Railway assisted by the Chicago Police Department placed the bait truck in the neighborhood.
“We sincerely regret that our actions caused further unease, and we don’t plan to use this method in the future,” said Smith.
The director of police practices for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois, Karen Sheley, aptly questioned why the police are planting bait trucks when there are so many unsolved murders on the books. Sheley told VICE News that the police should be focused on crimes, not entrapment.
“Why aren’t you solving the crimes that have already been committed?” asked Sheley. “Why are you focusing on creating false opportunities for people to steal in a neighborhood where people have so few resources?”
Chicago had 781 murders in 2017, yet only 204 arrests were made by the police. With so many unsolved murders in the city, it makes one wonder why so much energy and time was wasted to encourage theft in a marginalized neighborhood, and it sure enhances the lack of trust that the community has for the police.
Activist and journalist Shaun King managed to add a positive lining to the cloud left by the bait truck by posting on Twitter. King is asking people to help make sure that any kid in Chicago who needs a pair of shoes will have them.
Last week the Chicago Police set up a bait trap by putting a truck full of tennis shoes in the hood then arresting any kids who took a pair.— Shaun King (@shaunking) August 16, 2018
So - let's buy THOUSANDS of shoes for every kid in Chicago who needs a pair.
ORDER TONIGHT @ https://t.co/aNWxI4MijJ pic.twitter.com/GUWp7WvOTq
The Chicago Police Department is being called out by the community for attempting to bait underprivileged residents into committing crimes.
Viral video footage showed officers surrounding a white truck believed to be filled with high-end footwear, including Nike Air Force 1 sneakers and Christian Louboutin shoes, Blavity reports. Conveniently, the truck was parked near a basketball court in a low-income neighborhood where young black boys typically convene.
Community police watchdog activist Charles Mckenzie of the group God's Gorillas posted a clip of residents confronting the officers about the suspicious truck.
Mckenzie also claimed that the truck was moved to different parts of the neighborhood as well to try to lure people into stealing the expensive merchandise, according to Blavity.
“There were a lot of young guys playing basketball,” Mckenzie said. “Why would they do that in the poorest communities to people who don’t have anything better?”
Bait vehicles are actually not a new concept. The tactic has reportedly been used nationwide to curb crime in certain areas in the past and is often still used by some smaller departments.
Apparently, the operation that Mckenzie filmed was orchestrated by Norfolk Southern Railroad Police.
“This was a Norfolk Southern Railroad Police investigation. CPD was there to assist with enforcement,” Officer Patrick McGinnis, a Chicago Police spokesman, said in an email, according to Block Club Chicago.
Norfolk Southern spokeswoman Susan Terpay reportedly said in a statement that the truck that residents spotted was part of a “joint surveillance operation to apprehend the individuals who have been breaking into freight containers at NS rail yards in Southside Chicago.”
However, the publication noted that the rail yards are more than a mile away from where the bait truck was planted.
Although officers made some arrests as a result of the operation, Terpay insisted that young people were not the targets.
“Contrary to some reports, youth were not targeted — those arrested ranged in age from 21 to 59 — and the unmarked truck, which was locked and unopened with no indication of its contents, was forcibly entered after its safety seal was broken,” Terpay said.
Alas, it remains odd that they would park the truck near a basketball court known as a youth hangout if that is not the demographic they were after.
Mckenzie maintains that regardless of the department’s reasoning or motive for planting the truck in the neighborhood, it is an automatic setup for failure.
“How’re we supposed to trust CPD, and they’re doing things like this?” he said. “Why would you put a bait truck in the Englewood area when you guys know that they don’t really have anything to lose?”
Mckenzie is right to question how the police expect minority communities to trust them if they are pulling these types of stunts. Despite the department's so-called explanation, the bottom line is that the bait trucks give the impression that the police are deliberately creating reasons to arrest black civilians.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credits: Reuters, Jim Young