According to statistics compiled by the insurance industry, over the last five years, Modesto has been among the leading cities in the country for incidents of stolen cars.
Last year the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force started using the "bait cars". The computer-controlled vehicles are placed in locations frequented by thieves. After the vehicle is stolen the computer tapes the driver's actions. After a short period the police stop the car and lock the doors via remote control until officers arrive to make an arrest.
C-H-P Lieutenant Jeff Morris, who heads the task force, says the data collected by the computer makes a strong case for prosecutors.
"The District Attorney has told us that in almost every case the people almost always end up plea bargaining out."
Morris says last November the task force made dozens of arrests during sting operations with bait cars. He said in December the number of auto thefts in Stanislaus County dropped considerably.
A spokesman for the insurance industry says it's common for thefts to decline in areas where bait cars are used.