San Francisco cops go undercover to catch crooks snatching computers 

Crackdown: San Francisco police have been using LoJack technology to track down decoy laptops that get stolen. - Examiner file photo - EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Examiner file photo
  • Crackdown: San Francisco police have been using LoJack technology to track down decoy laptops that get stolen.Examiner file photo

The latest strategy in the crackdown on rampant street robberies has San Francisco plainclothes cops hanging out on buses and park benches with enticing laptops.

Ingleside Police Station officers launched LoJack computer decoy operations in recent months, after an increase in thefts of laptops around the City College of San Francisco, Officer Harry Soulette said Friday.

The cops “look like anybody walking around The City,” Soulette said. They can be anywhere — in a bus shelter or walking down the street.

“Sometimes they will have [the laptop] on their lap,” Soulette said. “They will pull it out so everyone will see it. Then they put it in their backpack and leave the backpack close to them.”

When a crook tries to swipe it, backup officers will swoop in and make the arrest. The computers are equipped with LoJack technology, which allows the device to be tracked via GPS should a robber successfully flee police.

“You can’t see [the LoJack technology], you can’t detect it, you can’t notice it,” Soulette said.

But since the decoy operation began, no robber has slipped past cops during an operation, he added. The operations, usually conducted in problem-theft areas, have led to a decrease in robberies, he said.

Police decoy operations have become more prevalent with the increasing popularity of portable electronic devices, such as smartphones and digital music players.

Police have also used LoJack technology in cars to track down thieves. Last year, the Police Department was testing a program that placed electronically tracked bait bikes in theft hot spots. Police would track the bikes in order to find out who buys and sells stolen property.

Bait cars are also used by San Francisco police, Sulette said. The California Highway Patrol’s four-person Vehicle Task Force also recently began putting out bait cars, rotating 16 such cars around the state.

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