Strategically placed bait cars are being credited with helping lower auto thefts during the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, B.C.’s solicitor general said yesterday.

Vehicle thefts hit a 14-year low, Michael de Jong said. There were 730 stolen cars and 1,335 auto break-ins in February 2010 — a 22 per cent reduction in thefts and 15 per cent fewer break-ins compared to the same period last year.

“We warned car thieves that bait cars would be everywhere during the Games, and it appears they got the message,” said de Jong.

To show that the decrease in thefts is a long-term and gradual process, de Jong also compared the February 2010 numbers with February 1996 when 64 per cent more cars were stolen and police recorded 71 per cent more break-ins.

“This success is all the more impressive given the number of visitors’ vehicles in B.C. during this time — not to mention that there are about 400,000 more vehicles on Metro Vancouver roads than there were in 1996.”

Bait cars were introduced in B.C. in 2004 as part of a project called Impact. During the Olympics, many of the bait cars displayed cameras and laptops marked with new MicroDot DNA technology, which helps police track stolen goods and provides indisputable evidence in court.