Chicago police and Norfolk Southern Railway are facing criticism for parking a “bait truck,” filled with high-priced sneakers and shoes in a predominately black, low-income neighborhood, last week. A truck packed with boxes of Nike Air Force 1's and Christian Loboutins were left it in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, Vox. com reports.
On Aug. 2, activist and Englewood resident, Charles McKenzie, recorded footage of the truck and posted it on Facebook, later in the week. The footage went viral, racking up over 600,000 vides on Facebook alone.
In the video, residents are heard calling out police for intentionally parking a the truck in "the ghetto," around "kids" playing basketball. "That's sad," says one man.
McKenzie said that he was "hurt" by what he witnessed, as he feels that it weakens community faith in police. “How can we trust CPD and they are doing stuff like this in our community?” he said Thursday (Aug. 9). “It hurt me because I try to help these guys get jobs.”
The video drew outrage online, especially from local community residents, council members and more. “This bait truck operation is an unacceptable and inappropriate use of police resources,” Ald. Roderick Sawyer 6th, chair of the City Council’s Black Caucus said in a statement. “In a moment where police capacity is clearly under extreme strain, these sort of tactics are the last thing we should be spending manpower and energy on.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois slammed the practice for doing the exact opposite of improving police-community relations. “Police in Chicago must focus on building trust and better relationships within the communities they serve, not engage in stunts like bait trucks,” a spokesperson for the ACLU of Illinois said, per the Chicago Tribune. “The Chicago Police Department admits that it can’t solve murders and violent crimes because communities of color don’t trust the Chicago police. These stunts won’t help.”
Lori Lightfoot, a Chicago mayoral candidate and former head of the Chicago Police Board, pointed out that the city is already dealing with a wave of gun violence, and the entrapment practice doesn’t help. “Especially after a weekend with seventy shootings and zero arrests, news of this bait truck operation is an appalling display of misplaced priorities and a step backwards on the path to trust and legitimacy,” said Lightfoot.
Police made three arrests from “Operation Trailer Trap,” one of which was David C. King, a 36-year-old deaf man. King was charged with burglary. Authorities say two men broke the lock of the trailer before fleeing, King allegedly crept up moments later and snuck inside the truck.
King, who communicates through sign language, reportedly told police that he was looking for food in the truck's trailer. According to Cook County arrest records, King was released a day after his arrest and given a court date.
The law enforcement practice of "baiting" has long been criticized for being unethical, and for targeting minorities. The cable network TruTV capitalized on the practice in the reality-based show Bait Car where unsuspecting people (typically young black and hispanic males) attempt steal unaccompanied vehicles.
The CPD and Norfolk have launched a joint investigation into “Operations Trailer Trap.” A CPD spokesperson maintained that officers only assisted Norfolk Southern police in carrying out the operation.
According to a follow-up report from Vox.com, Norfolk Southern promised to end the practice. “Norfolk Southern recognizes that, despite the need to safeguard freight in the area, this operation eroded trust between law enforcement and the community,” spokesperson Susan Terpay said in a statement Friday (Aug. 10). “We sincerely regret that our actions caused further unease, and we don’t plan to use this method in the future.”