Norfolk Southern may have to hold a sanctioned block party to atone for their sin. Update to this story.

Via Chicago Tribune:

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.”

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