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Columbus Police Arrest Three Teens In Bait Car Operation

Columbus Police cruiser vehicle
Adora Namigadde

Columbus Police arrested three teenagers over the weekend after they allegedly stole a “bait” car set up by police near The Ohio State campus on North High Street.

Regarding bait cars, Columbus Police Lt. Howard Pettengill who heads the property crimes department said, “The city of Columbus used to have one that we operated but that has been years since that happened. But due to the large influx of thefts around OSU, Ohio State Highway Patrol volunteered to provide theirs to assist us.”

Last Friday evening, the car that can be operated remotely was positioned on High Street near East 17th Avenue close to a McDonald’s. Lt. Pettengill said the car was left running. Police said a 17-year-old entered the vehicle and drove away.

“Once the car becomes occupied by the thief, then detectives in other vehicles will follow it to a safe area, shut it down and then make the apprehensions,” said Pettengill.

In the second incident, at North High St. near East 18th Ave, police said two 15-year-olds took the vehicle for a ride.

All three teens face charges for theft of a motor vehicle. Police said they found a loaded gun carried by the 17-year-old and he will also face a charge of carrying a concealed weapon.

“We want to stop the thieves from happening…and that’s one aspect of trying to prevent the crimes, the other one is actually reaching out to the community and educating them on what not to do so their car doesn’t get stolen,” said Pettengill. “But this was to help catch the criminals that are actually doing it.”

Ohio State University has stepped up its public safety efforts around campus this year after a sharp rise in various crimes. Pettengill said the procedure may be used more often in other locations that have a spike in stolen vehicles.

“If it wasn’t our car, it would have been a car of another victim that they would have stolen,” Pettengill said.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.