Chicago, IL – The Norfolk Southern Railroad Police Department apologized Friday after they were recorded conducting a sting operation after guns and ammunition had been stolen recently from in-transit freight containers.
A freight truck was parked in several locations a few blocks from the rail yards in the area where the thefts had happened in hopes of luring the criminals back.
Three men were arrested and charged with burglary for breaking into the trucks during the sting, according to USA Today.
However, some community members claimed police were “baiting” young people who played basketball in the parks near the railway because the freight truck was loaded with Nike basketball shoes.
A video was posted on YouTube where angry community members accused police of using the truck to lure children from the nearby park.
"Freight theft specifically in this area has been increasing as the volume of rail traffic moving through the city of Chicago also increased," Norfolk Southern Railway Spokeswoman Susan Terpay said, according to USA Today. "This week’s police operation was intended to directly combat such unacceptable thefts.”
Terpay said the truck was never parked near a basketball court and was not left open so that the thieves wouldn't know was was in the trailers until after they broke in, according to USA Today.
Chicago police said that Terrell Melvin, 21, David King, 36, and Floyd Allen, 59, were initially charged with burglary after the truck’s trailer was broken into last week.
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However, all charges were dropped Thursday after community outrage.
Some community members said the “bait” truck full of Nike shoes was left in a poor neighborhood and was an obvious attempt to target black youth.
"The police parked a truck with boxes of Nike shoes in front of kids, lifted up, and when people hop in the truck, the police hopping out on them " said Charles McKenzie in a video he posted on Facebook.
In another video a man swears at police officers as he approached them about the sting.
"Y'all dirty, man," the man yelled at police. "Y'all see kids playing ball and you pull a f—– Nike truck into the ghetto."
The railroad apologized on Friday for catching the thieves.
"Norfolk Southern recognizes that, despite the need to safeguard freight in the area, this operation eroded trust between law enforcement and the community," the statement read, in part. "We sincerely regret that our actions caused further unease, and we don't plan to use this method in the future."
You can see a viral video from one of the stings below: