Rio Rancho giving bait cars to Los Lunas Police

New Mexico

LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – Los Lunas police are ramping up their efforts to tackle car theft and car burglaries, with help from another metro-area city. Rio Rancho will soon transfer its three bait cars to the Los Lunas Police Department Auto Theft Unit following a city council vote Thursday night.

LLPD’s current bait car program that started last year includes one car they borrow from the county, but they say they’ve only deployed it a handful of times and haven’t made any arrests yet.

“Auto thefts and auto burglaries [are] continuing to be an issue not just in our jurisdiction but in all jurisdictions,” LLPD Lt. Lisa Valenzuela explained.

Valenzuela said so far this year, Los Lunas has had 79 car burglaries and 70 car thefts, but couldn’t say how that compares to years past. The department is hoping to crack down on those numbers with the extra bait cars.

Valenzuela said Los Lunas will use them for targeted operations in neighborhoods and near businesses. “More short-term deployments to where we take the car somewhere and we might leave it there for 15-20 minutes,” Valenzuela said.

The cost to the department is an $8,000 tracking system for one of the vehicles they say didn’t have one.

Rio Rancho Police ended its bait car program about a year and a half ago. A city spokesperson said it was successful for several years, but wouldn’t say how many arrests they made. Officials added that bait car programs typically end when there’s a risk of the cars becoming recognizable. The city still conducts auto theft operations in partnership with the New Mexico Auto Theft Task Force.

Rio Rancho City Council on Thursday also accepted a $13,586 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to lease five static license plate reader cameras to help identify and track stolen vehicles.

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