Police Increasingly Use GPS for Asset Management of a Different Kind

We tend to write about fixed asset tracking on this blog in terms of supply chain management, but law enforcement around the world have started employing GPS tracking in entirely different way – to catch bad guys. And this form of aggressive asset management is sure to make the world a more dangerous place to practice property crime.

A recent AP story out of New York caught our attention. The New York Police Department plans to hide fake pill bottles rigged with GPS devices amid legitimate supplies on pharmacy shelves. According to the AP, pharmacies across the country have experimented with bait bottles in recent years, but the NYPD is really diving in by encouraging thousands of locations to take part.

NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly says the initiative was spurred by a growing black market for oxycodone and other drugs. Several high-profile crimes have been linked to the demand, including a quadruple slaying during a drug store stickup.

Scope of the Plan

According to the AP, the department is creating a database of 6,000 pharmacists and 1,800 pharmacies and plans to visit them all. The hope is to enroll enough pharmacies in the program that data from stolen bottles can help police cut to the root of the problem.

New York’s creative use of GPS is just one of many ways technology is helping to even the score against criminals.

Police in many cities already use GPS-equipped bait cars to catch thieves, although the practice has sometimes led to dangerous high-speed chases. Vancouver police credit a bait car program with reducing auto theft by 73 percent since 2003. Now they want to seed bait vehicles with GPS-equipped property that thieves often target in smash-and-grabs: smartphones and other personal electronics, tools and even sunglasses.

Other Examples of Tracking Crime Through GPS

Universities are turning to asset tracking crack down on bicycle thefts, long a frustrating and largely unsolvable problem on campuses everywhere. At Tulane University in New Orleans, campus police recently implemented a “bait bike” program. According to The Tulane Hullabaloo, the school had 60 bikes ripped off last calendar year. The bait program started in January.

“What we have instituted is a bait bike program utilizing a GPS tracking system,” police superintendent Jon Barnwell told the student publication. “We equip a bicycle with a GPS tracking device, and then, we lock it to a bike rack and we put up a geo-fence. It’s like a virtual fence, so many feet around the bike rack. Once the bicycle is taken outside of the virtual fence, it triggers an alarm to us where we can pull it up on our iPhones or at our dispatch center, and we can track it.”

Barnwell said a similar effort during his time at North Carolina State University was successful in reducing bike theft by 50 percent.

Arizona State University has a similar program currently running on its campus in the metropolitan Phoenix area. Crime Prevention officer Brian Kiefling told the Downtown Devil that his hope is to track stolen bikes back to whatever storehouse thieves are using.

“I’d rather find the nest than get the individual bees,” Kiefling said.

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