Police use bait apartments to lure thieves

LAS VEGAS -- Criminals are getting more brazen, even kicking in apartment doors in broad daylight to steal. The crimes often take place when no one is home, but that doesn't mean no one is watching.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is using bait apartments to catch criminals red-handed. Even so, hundreds of crooks are still taking their chances every day.

Metro investigated 354 apartment burglaries last month. That's down 18 percent from Dec. 2013. The crooks often take money, jewelry, and televisions, as well as a person's sense of security.

"First, I heard the noise," said "Betty" who uses a pseudonym because she fears for her safety. "I just screamed."

Two weeks ago, "Betty," who works nights, woke up from her sleep at 3:30 in the afternoon, only to go through a real-life nightmare.
 
"When I was woken by a noise, I came around the corner, right here," she gestures. 

She found herself inches away from a burglar. 

"And then when he ran, another man ran out from either the living room or the other bedroom," she said. "Then I pushed them both out the door. They tripped into each other and split."

In seconds, the pair was gone from her apartment near Lake Mead and Rainbow boulevards. She ended up with a front door busted from its frame, but the pair didn't get away with any of her belongings.

In an effort to thwart burglaries, Metro is using bait apartments to fool burglars and get instant, live evidence of crimes.

"This bait apartment program is a deterrent. We have had success with it," said Metro Det. Greg Watkins.

He says police have set up bait apartments all over the valley to trap burglars and they want to get the word out.

"We have seen a significant drop in numbers as far as crimes, burglaries, grand larcenies, petty larcenies in complexes that we put them in within that month," Watkins said.

"We get a lot of door kick-ins," said Adam Titus with Stanley Security Systems. 

Titus is used to making recommendations to people who have already been victimized or fear they will be the target of a burglary. He demonstrates a door security bar.

"These right here are real good for when you're at home. They actually go up underneath the door handle and will help hold the door shut," Titus said.

The door security bars, along with high-security locks, special bars for sliding doors, and heavy-duty strike plates with longer screws, can stop crooks from kicking in a door.
 
"Because the screws, instead of just going into the frame, they go all the way into the wall. They're three-inch screws," "Betty" said.

She would like to find another place to live, but can't afford a move at the moment. For now, she is making sure her apartment is extra secure.

"I lock it here, lock it here, and then turn on the alarm," she said.

"Betty" hopes the intruders who frightened her will eventually get caught.

Metro says it's common that people living in your own complex are the ones committing the crimes. If you ever see a burglary in progress, call 911 immediately.


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