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Norfolk Southern apologizes to Chicago hoodlums, says won't use 'bait truck' tactic again


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Chicago Tribune  /  August 10, 2018

The Norfolk Southern Railway apologized on Friday for its controversial "bait truck" operation in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood and said it wouldn't use the tactic again.

In a letter in response to a Tribune editorial, Herbert Smith of Norfolk Southern acknowledged that the undercover operation “eroded trust between law enforcement and the community.”

“We sincerely regret that our actions caused further unease, and we don’t plan to use this method in the future,” wrote Smith, the railroad’s manager of community and legislative relations in Illinois, Iowa and Michigan.

The joint investigation with Chicago police — dubbed "Operation Trailer Trap" — used a truck loaded with goods that was left parked near 59th Place and Princeton Avenue in Englewood as a lure for potential thieves.

The probe, however, came under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and others after video footage of the operation went viral.

Despite the railroad’s apology, Smith said in the letter to the editor that community residents “deserve more context” about the investigation he said was prompted by ongoing cargo theft from parked and locked containers and trailers in that area.

Those break-ins included thefts of guns and ammunition “that found their way in the local community,” he said.

“At the time, local residents and officials told us we needed to do more to prevent this, and we have responded,” Smith wrote. “Norfolk Southern, in coordination with local, state and federal officials, employs a wide range of preventative and surveillance methods (seen and unseen) to deter crime. We regularly change and improve enforcement tools, but unfortunately thefts continue.”

After noting that the FBI estimates that freight thefts total more than $27 million a year, Smith said the railroad has reached out to local officials “to discuss how to best prevent freight theft, improve community relations and rebuild mutual trust.”

A video shot last week and posted on the Facebook page of community activist Charles Mckenzie appeared to show Chicago police officers arresting a man after he allegedly broke into a "bait truck" in the Englewood neighborhood. People on the video argued that community members were being set up for arrest.

Three people were arrested during the operation, according to Susan Terpay, a Norfolk Southern spokeswoman. But felony burglary charges have been dropped against each of the three defendants, said Robert Foley, a spokesman for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Foley declined to elaborate on why other than to say “it was in the interest of justice.”

One defendant still faces a misdemeanor assault charge in the case, Foley said.

Thomas Ahern, a Chicago police spokesman, said the department was not part of the “operational plan” with Norfolk Southern and only assisted the railroad with arrests.

Ahern said the goal of the operation was to respond to the numerous cargo thefts, including the stolen guns. He said authorities want to interview suspects in the case to try to determine if they knew of the previous gun thefts.

The tactic is controversial, however, because some consider it a form of entrapment. After Mckenzie's video footage was first reported by the news website Vox, the ACLU of Illinois condemned the practice.

"Police in Chicago must focus on building trust and better relationships within the communities they serve, not engage in stunts like bait trucks," said Karen Sheley, its director of the police practices project.

Mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot, former head of the Chicago Police Board, also blasted the operation, calling it “an appalling display of misplaced priorities and a step backwards on the path to trust and legitimacy.”

In one of two videos posted on Vox, a white semitrailer truck can be seen under "L" tracks as passers-by angrily walked toward a group of Chicago police officers.

"Watch for the bait truck. They're getting everybody out here, man," one person said.

At one point, a man can be seen standing with his hands behind his back surrounded by officers.


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Catching cargo thieves used to be okay. Go figure.


Travelers Using 'Sting Trailers' To Nab Cargo Thieves

Hartford Courant  /  November 29, 2015

WILLINGTON — Somewhere in America, a tractor-trailer loaded with hidden surveillance equipment is parked at a truck stop or warehouse while authorities wait for thieves to steal it.

No one is sure when, or even if, crooks will take it. But such "sting trailers" have been successful in busting up crime rings and recovering pilfered merchandise.

"It's like fishing," said D.Z. Patterson, an investigator for Travelers insurance. "You've got your worm in the water, but there are hundreds of other worms out there. They have to pick yours."

Cargo theft has become a huge problem that the FBI says causes $15 billion to $30 billion in losses each year in the U.S. Law enforcement and the insurance industry are fighting back by tempting thieves with "sting trailers" laden with cameras and GPS tracking devices, hidden within both the trailers and the inventory they contain.

The prevention efforts aren't new, but the reason for them is particularly acute during the holiday shopping season, when such thefts tend to increase as crooks look to score from retailers loading up on merchandise, according to FreightWatch International, a security company based in Austin, Texas. Over time, the sting trailers have given authorities a glimpse into how this breed of thief operates and helped truck owners improve security.

Thieves prefer nondescript trailers that would be hard to identify after being stolen, so it's best if a brand name or distinctive markings are emblazoned on the sides. Hidden cameras have recorded which locks are problematic for crooks, leading anti-fraud specialists to recommend truck owners install the highest-tech locks.

And, officials have learned, it's better to hide GPS tracking systems as best you can, because the criminals know what they look like and how to disable them.

New York-based Travelers Cos., which has a large office in Hartford, believes it is the only insurance company using a sting trailer, though a handful of others are used by law enforcement agencies and retail and trucking companies. Its trailer was developed in 2008 at the company's Windsor, Connecticut, lab and is equipped with $100,000 worth of surveillance gear. Law enforcement agencies nationwide have used it hundreds of times, resulting in dozens of arrests.

"The primary purpose is to assist law enforcement in targeting organized cargo rings," said Scott Cornell, a theft investigator for Travelers. "Every time the sting trailer breaks up a ring ... every trucking company or anyone in supply chain that moves cargo in that area benefits. It has clearly reduced thefts in areas where there have been arrests."

But the effect is never permanent, he said.

"If you take out a ring, you may see reduced thefts for six, eight, 10 months, but another group is going to move in," he said.

Some criminals have countered efforts with technology that can jam a tracking device's signal, said Steve Covey, a commercial fraud investigator with the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The nonprofit group, based in Des Plaines, Illinois, works with law enforcement agencies and insurance companies to prevent theft.

"They figure out what they have to defeat, so they do their homework and try something new, and maybe that will work for a while," Covey said. "And maybe the companies will come up with something to fix that problem. It keeps mushrooming."

Getting even bolder, thieves have been using identity theft and bogus documents to pose as drivers for real companies to pick up trailers of goods at warehouses, according to Covey and Scott Cornell, a Travelers theft investigator.

There were 152 cargo thefts nationwide in July, August and September, a 24 percent drop from the same months last year, FreightWatch reported this month. But the average value per cargo theft, nearly $200,000, increased 7 percent from April, May and June.

New Mexico state police and the National Insurance Crime Bureau in January used Travelers' trailer to try to catch thieves looting trucks along Interstate 40 in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma. The trailer, loaded with Bose speakers equipped with tracking devices as an extra precaution, sat there for days before thieves came calling.

They took some of the cargo and put it in their own truck just east of Albuquerque. Authorities later learned the suspects would start in California with an empty truck and load it up with goods stolen from trucks all along I-40.

Police tracked the stolen speakers to a rental storage center in Lyon Township, Michigan, where a state trooper found two suspects, a tractor-trailer and two rental units filled with stolen electronics and other goods. At the nearby home of one of the suspects, authorities found more than $1 million worth of merchandise and other items they believe were bought with proceeds from thefts, including a $500,000 Ferrari, The Detroit News reported.

In 2013, the Travelers trailer was taken by members of a Miami-based group that was stealing cargo in eastern Pennsylvania and taking it to sell in New Jersey, Cornell said. Two people were arrested after driving the trailer into New Jersey.

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Didn't you get the memo? Crime pays and no punishment except maybe you're cable channels are limited...THis is an MS-13 boss that ordered murders and more, don't you feel sorry he hasn't got enough phone access?




An alleged major drug trafficker known as "Reaper," who's accused of being a kingpin in the brutal MS-13 gang, told a judge life in lockup is unbearable and complained about a lack of phone access and the "discrimination" he faces at a New York county jail.

Miguel Angel Corea Diaz, 35, begged State Supreme Court Justice Patricia Harrington to intervene while he's locked up in Nassau County, Newsday reported Monday. Corea Diaz claimed he was “suffering.”

“Discrimination. I’m suffering in this county. They call me ‘El Chapo.’ Die, scary guy,” the so-called East Coast leader of the notorious gang told the court he had received “a lot of death threats” from outside the jail.

Corea Diaz was charged with three counts of operating as a major drug trafficker and five counts of second-degree conspiracy. He pleaded not guilty to the crimes in April. The district attorney’s office had told the court Corea Diaz reported directly to the gang’s leaders in El Salvador'

In front of Harrington on July 31, however, Corea Diaz painted himself as a loving father who misses his children, the paper reported.

“I’m a human being, I have a family. I have children. I’m not able to talk to them,” he said. “It’s about time that I speak to them because when I get deported, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to speak to them again.”

Corea Diaz is locked in his jail cell for 23 hours a day and has limited phone access, his lawyer Scott Gross told the judge, adding “The conditions have been unbearable.”



 “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit, what a ride!’


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