“A criminal walks past an empty car with its engine running. He looks around, but sees no owner. So he steals the vehicle. Unfortunately for him, the police are watching his every move with a hidden video camera they installed on the dashboard. The officers press a button and shut down the automobile and the thief is led away in handcuffs. He’s been snared with a Bait Car.” (http://www.trutv.com/shows/bait_car)

Two things:
  • Isn’t there enough crime in the streets already without these reality TV pimps adding to the mess?
  • Can these cops only solve crimes they create themselves?
Courtesy of truTV, a Time Warner operation, you can watch people so stupid they would eat a brick get arrested for grand theft auto because they jumped into a brand new car parked on a ghetto street with its keys in the ignition and drove it off.
Does anyone think these charades reduce crime in any meaningful way whatever? The police think so. They note that virtually every thief they catch has a record. In fact, according to one officer:

“We didn’t set you up, you set yourself up. You could have just walked right by the car. And you didn’t. And now that guy with 42 prior arrests, 20 of them for stolen cars, is sitting in jail.”

Well, there’s your problem. Forty two prior arrests? Twenty stolen cars? What is this guy doing walking (okay, driving) around? Now, that’s not the cop’s fault; if were up to him, this guy would be chained to rabid mastiff in a windowless dungeon. But do we really need to be waving a cherry Escalade with its engine running in his face for him to commit felony number twenty-one?

What really entertains the audience, though, is not just the antics of the perps, which are pretty predictable after a few episodes (m*th**f**k**r features prominently through the bleeps — in fact, most of the perps’ dialogue is bleeped) , but the way the cops then toy with the thief when they catch him.  It’s like watching a bear-baiting in Olde England, without the majesty of the bear:

“Where were you going?”

“Oh — I — I — this dude asked me to park his car.”

“So you decided to park it six blocks away?”

“No — uh — no — I was lookin’ for a space.”

“What was his name?”

“Uh — Archibald. I dunno — I just know him on the street…”

“Well, we saw you get in the car, and there wasn’t anyone else around.”

“Yeah — uh — he went inside.”

They let the poor dim bastard sweat as long as they can before they finally tip him off that he’s fallen for a sting.   Like he couldn’t figure that out when the engine died and all the doors locked? Come on, boys, this is like pulling the wings off of flies.

And how much is all this costing?  I presume that Time Warner is picking up some of the tab; after all, they’re the ones making millions off the videotape.  But they’re certainly not paying the salaries of the dozen or so cops involved in each sting, or the gas and maintenance of the squad cars — and the helicopter? Who gets that bill?  My guess is that we do.

Let’s face it. This isn’t about crime prevention at all. This is pure entertainment.  Sick, yes, but we enjoy watching people we can justify hating get their asses handed to them.  And what a deal for Time Warner.  The actors are free (until they get cuffed, at least), there are no sets, no writers — just a producer and a camera crew, and boundless opportunities to watch completely hopeless dimwits howl obscenely as they drive off in their hot new ride.

Oh, have I seen a white man get caught yet? Nope.  So far this has been a a remarkably monochrome experience for something that features nothing but color.

Come on, Time Warner. This is beyond the pale. If we let you get away with this, what’s next? Candid camera wife-beating? For lining your pockets by making the world just a little more ugly, we give you the Edge of the Blade.  Into the Stewpot with you.