Letters: Texas High School and Bait Cars Robert Siegel reads from listeners' e-mails. We hear from a public defender concerned about local police using a "bait car" program to catch auto thieves. There is also criticism of NPR's coverage of circus elephants walking into Manhattan, and appreciation of a project aimed at sending prom dresses to a Texas high school affected by military deployments.

Letters: Texas High School and Bait Cars

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It's Thursday, the day we read from your e-mails, and we'll start with my visit to the auto crimes unit of the Arlington County, Virginia police department.

Detective CHRIS DENGELES (Auto Crimes Unit, Arlington County Police Department): In this particular case, these two individuals have entered the car and started searching the interior, and you can see that the gentleman pulls a machete from his waistband. The driver's actually a member of MS13 gang, and the passenger is an associate of that gang.

SIEGEL: Detective Chris Dengeles there describing tape from the department's bait car program. It catches thieves in the act by rigging commonly stolen cars with video cameras. Well, this tactic troubles Patricia Nevin(ph) of Minneapolis.

She writes: I'm a public defender in Minneapolis, and I've had the misfortune of representing children who have been lured into bait cars like the ones in your piece. The videos I've seen aren't about perps but about kids being put into dangerous situations by the police. The videos show kids getting into a junk car in a lousy part of town, then - surprise - the kid starts on a high-speed chase once the sirens and lights begin.

We should note that in the Arlington model, the cars can be turned off by remote control, and in our story Detective Dengeles noted that car thieves seem to prefer entering through the rear door, but he didn't know why.

Well, Natalie Champagne(ph) of Yorktown, Virginia has one answer. Anyone who has been locked out of a car with automatic locks and keyless entry can tell you, she says. Locksmiths spring the rear door to prevent damaging the automatic locking system.

Well, on to elephants and Robert Smith's story yesterday about the circus elephants walking into Manhattan.

ROBERT SMITH: See, the circus train is about a mile long, and they can't really bring it into the city and walk the elephants up the escalators from Penn Station, so what they do is they park it over in Long Island City in Queens. They take the elephants off, and they walk them through the Queens Midtown Tunnel, underneath the East River, along 34th Street to Madison Square Garden.

SIEGEL: Christine Goslawsky(ph) of Montello, Wisconsin was one of many letter-writers who did not like this story. She writes: That story brought tears to my eyes. A better story would've been a report on the emotional trauma and physical ailments suffered by these majestic beasts, who are kept in captivity to entertain humans.

Well, earlier this week my colleague Melissa Block spoke with Principal David Waters of Timberland High School in Wentzville, Missouri. He's organizing a project called Dresses for Texas. By Easter, the project aims to collect some 250 prom dresses for students at Shoemaker High School in Killeen, Texas. Most of Shoemaker's 2,000 students have at least one parent in the military, many of them deployed in Iraq.

It is hard to drive home with tears in my eyes, writes Markie Huff(ph) of Monmouth, Oregon, but this story really spoke to me. I experienced 30 years of Navy life, and my family had our first seven Christmases apart.

A number of you wrote to inquire how you might donate to Dresses for Texas, and there is now a link to Timberland High School at our Web site, npr.org, and while you're at the Web site, you can send us your comments by writing. Click on Contact Us at the top of the page.

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