April 16th, 2013
GPS tracking is one of the easiest new ways to keep tabs on pets. Dogs and cats are fitted with monitoring devices so their owners can know where they’ve been, where they’re going, and what their habits are. Apparently pet lovers aren’t the only ones to use electronic monitoring on their furry friends. Conservationists and zoologists are now using GPS tracking to learn more about endangered species of animals. For instance, in the northeast part of Kenya a herd of rare antelope, the hirola, is being tracked in hopes of saving their breed.
Conservationists and the Zoological Society of London are concerned that the hirolas’ numbers are dwindling dangerously low— having lost almost 90% of the population in just 30 years. In hopes of learning more about the less than 500 antelope left on the planet and how to bolster their population, conservationists have fitted nine hirola of seven separate herds with GPS trackers to follow them on their migration patterns. Primarily done by studying their hoof prints and refuse left behind, the distinction of the herds was difficult to determine because lack of water in the region has caused the rare antelope to retreat to areas with more numerous watering holes and better access to food, a main reason for the hirolas’ endangered population besides poaching by hunters, removal of their natural environment, and being killed by animals who prey on their herds for food.
Thanks to GPS tracking, conservationists can now learn the information they need to know not only to hopefully protect the hirola from extinction but also to bolster their dwindling population. The tracking devices used will automatically detach from the tagged antelope in summer of 2014, but in the meantime zoologists will be able to study their normal travel habits. The GPS equipment will record the coordinates of the hirola intermittently, about three hours apart, for the year.
A similar method has been used to track endangered South African rhinos by embedding a GPS tracking chip deep within their horns. The rhinos are monitored, and based upon their activity whether sprinting, sleeping, or leaving the predetermined location, wardens are always at the ready if needed to respond to poaching attempts.
March 25th, 2013
Officials in Jaipur have announced that about 12,000 of the city’s autorickshaws will have GPS trackers installed, giving police the ability to locate them quickly in an emergency, as well as to protect women from being harassed by their drivers.
What led to the decision to install the GPS devices on the vehicles? A senior police officer said that it is necessary to keep a close eye on public transportation in order to keep its passengers safe, especially after the brutal gang rape in New Delhi of a physiotherapist last December. Five men are charged with the crime of gang raping and assaulting a 23 year old medical student on a moving bus. The victim died weeks later in a Singapore hospital.
“About 12,000 auotrickshaws ply in the city every day. In the state government’s traffic control board meeting held recently, it was decided that these autos should be enabled with GPS,” said the officer. “After the implementation of the project, we would be able to track down any auto running in the city. In case of an emergency, like a passenger being harassed, the GPS would enable us to respond quickly.”
The installation of the GPS devices is expected to begin soon. A route will be set for each auto and will remain fixed, while officials in a control room will keep a close eye on their travels.
“Autos plying on a particular route will be painted in similar colors to differentiate them from those running on other routes,” said the official.
The idea of installing all autorickshaws with GPS tracking devices was not met with open arms. At the end of last year, autorickshaw and taxi unions went on strike to protest the mandatory GPS devices due to their high cost. They demanded a subsidy on the GPS devices, as well as the ability to raise fares.
March 12th, 2013
The rhinoceros is one of the most endangered animals in Africa, but GPS trackers may help to save it. The reason for the animal’s critical status is the value of its horn, which in its powdered form now rivals the price of gold. This powder is used in several traditional Asian medicines. The desire to obtain this valuable commodity has driven poachers to kill more than 500 rhinos in the past year alone.
The Rhino and Nature Preserve in South Africa has launched a new effort, called the Rhino Rescue Project, to combat this problem. Rather than try to prevent the poaching or even catch the poachers, their plan is to eliminate the demand for the rhino horn and thus remove the reason for the poaching. In order for their method to work, however, they must first catch the rhino. That task achieved, they then inject the horn of the rhino with a bright, indelible dye (like that used by banks in robberies), a GPS microchip, and a non-lethal poison (harmful to humans not the rhino). Each of these items plays its own unique role in discouraging further poaching. The dye turns the rhino’s horn pink, thus destroying its value and making it difficult to transport since the color remains even after the horn is ground to powder. The poison makes the powder of the horn useless as a medicine since it will cause nausea and vomiting in any human that ingests it. The GPS trackers enable conservationists to track the locations of the treated rhinos. Some of these trackers are programmed to send out an alarm if the rhino begins to move rapidly, as would occur if it was being pursued by poachers. This information can enable the poachers to be caught red-handed, hopefully before they successfully kill the rhino. If they do manage to get away with their prize, the GPS device contained in the horn will reveal their location to law enforcement officials.
The Rhino Rescue Project has been busy spreading the news through signage and word of mouth that rhinos have been treated in this way and are thus useless to poachers. They report that their efforts have paid off as no treated rhinos have been killed in the Preserve since they began the project. Dye, poison, and GPS trackers seem to be doing a good job of protecting the rhinos.
March 9th, 2013
Last December police in Kansas City, Missouri arrested a man after he refused to pay for a cab ride, stabbed his female cab driver, and took off with her car. Unbeknownst to the cabby’s attacker, though, was the fact that this particular company, Checker Cabs, has equipped all of it’s vehicles with GPS tracking units. And while the cab company was unable to track the vehicle the night of the attack due to some technological malfunctions, by the next morning they had re-established tracking to the cab and the police were able to confront, and after a brief high speed race, apprehend the suspect.
If it seems like you’ve read a similar story before, you probably have. In fact, although car thefts are on the decline, as of 2010 the FBI estimated that a motor vehicle was stolen every 43 seconds, good for over 737,000 a year. So perhaps it should be no wonder that GPS tracking units are becoming one of many police department’s favorite crime fighting tools. Gone are the days when the best service GPS provided was directions to the closest coffee shop. Now, services like Onstar from GM offer GPS tracking of your vehicle in case of theft. In the case of Onstar, 76% of vehicles equipped with the service are recovered by police. That number looks even better when compared to a national vehicle recovery rate of 43% in 2009.
But even with a variety of car tracking devices available, most which have several useful features in addition to vehicle recovery assistance, many car owners still have not equipped their cars with these relatively inexpensive tracking devices. Compared to the expense and hassle purchasing a new car, making the investment of money and time to equip your car with a GPS device seems like a small sacrifice.
Criminals always seem to be a half step ahead of the law, and some professional auto thieves are discovering ways to combat GPS tracking, but, as Onstar’s recovery rate suggests, many criminals still have not figured out that their every move in a stolen vehicle can be mapped. Vehicles are often stolen to be flipped for a quick profit or as getaway cars to be trashed abandoned, so time is of essence if you want to recover your vehicle. And if you have GPS tracking for your vehicle you can help give police the upper hand they need.
March 8th, 2013
Altura Credit Union in Moreno Valley, California, was robbed one morning at 9:30 AM. Three males, faces covered and armed with guns, went in and exited with an unknown sum of cash. As they jumped into their vehicle, they began to make their way toward Los Angeles. Unfortunately for them but luckily for law enforcement, those bills they’d pilfered were being GPS tracked with a concealed device. California Highway Patrol trailed their GPS signal on their way to their destination and set up a roadblock at an appropriate section of the freeway in question to perform vehicle searches and inquiry. The three bank robbers were apprehended and put under arrest—and the money safely retrieved—thanks to GPS tracking.
An Undisclosed Technique
Some police departments are not so forthcoming about how money is thus monitored, as is the case with Buffalo Police Department in New York. A Bank of America branch was robbed in Buffalo, NY, and the sack full of $100s concealed within the trash. But luckily for the police, who were able to track and reclaim the bag, a GPS monitoring device was left somewhere inside the cash by an employee of the branch; whether it was attached to the paper money itself or elsewhere was not revealed. The equipment used is so miniscule a search of every single bill in the pile might have been necessary to discover it. Either way, the Buffalo police want to keep their currently successful, proprietary GPS tracking technique a secret for as long as possible.
How Connecticut Does It
A similar situation occurred in Groton, Connecticut, at the Navy Federal Credit Union. Though scared, the bank employee there obeyed at gunpoint a man’s handwritten note to fill his sack with what ended up being $5,501 and an additional $2,000, which regrettably for him included a GPS tracking device. The concealed equipment begins transmitting its signal when removed from the drawer. Officers answering the emergency communication center’s dispatches were able to obtain the exact moving coordinates of the thief as they materialized.
When the robber was tracked to the New London Naval Submarine Base and eventually to a specific street intended as an exit, the base police were made aware and, shutting down all possible escape routes from the base, checked individual vehicles on that street. In a quarter of an hour the suspect, based upon the bank employees’ description and monitored money found, was apprehended and arrested.
March 5th, 2013
GPS technology can be a powerful, useful, and wonderful tool—until evil use of it turns people’s lives into a nightmare. Stalking applications are designed to collect user data from the signal output of GPS tracked devices (like iPhones and Androids) for, as Senator Franken of Minnesota puts it, “nefarious purposes.” The information reveals the GPS enabled device owner’s every move, location at any given time and the route taken to get there.
Franken Bill in a Nutshell
Since his attempts to get passed the Location Protection Privacy Act of 2011 (it was left in committee at the Senate) and eventually of 2012, Franken has pushed for the passing of a bill into law that would supplement the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986, which at the time had no way of taking into consideration GPS tracking technology. The original plan was to require companies to gain individual users’ permission before using GPS tracking technology to collect their data or to reveal that data to other third-party companies for marketing purposes.
Franken’s committee having sat down with various technology companies to discuss how a reasonable agreement could be reached, apparently many applications have taken the initiative and done that very thing themselves before the bill, if signed into law, were to hit. Should it happen, all apps that rely on GPS tracking would have to conform and not only ask user permission but also reveal how their info would be used and by whom; any handling of the data other than with pre-approval would be considered illegal.
Changes for the Better
Following upon a motion adding to the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986 to require a warrant prior to gaining access to an individual’s electronic communication, several items have been expanded upon in Franken’s bill. The Location Protection Privacy Act in its current state will require companies to get parents’ approval before GPS tracking their children. The bill would also limit and/or abolish the usage of stalking apps and make stalking using GPS technology illegal; user privacy would be protected since a warrant would be necessary to obtain personal GPS gathered data.
This updated version of the bill has currently been passed out of committee to await Congress—first the Senate and then House of Representatives—and if approved eventually the President for signing.
March 5th, 2013
GPS is fast becoming a favorite crime fighting tool of police departments around the world. But Maryland police had a scare when a drug dealer nearly got off because of their use of a tracking device. The police had a suspect in Antoine Jones and house they knew to be a drug “stash house,” but, lacking a connection, couldn’t prosecute. Using a GPS tracking device seemed like the natural way to prove that Jones was connected to the drug dealing going on at the house and worthy of a conviction. It worked, too. The GPS tracked Jones to house, the DA prosecuted, and Jones landed in jail. But there was one problem. Police didn’t have a warrant to place the tracking device on Jones’ car.
Jones appealed his conviction on the grounds that, without a warrant, police did not have the legal right to track his vehicle. He won his appeal at a state appeals court and, in 2010, his conviction was reversed. However, a Federal Court in Washington reversed the ruling of the lower court on the grounds that Jones failed to prove that police could not have linked him to the stash house with the aid of the GPS device.
While the ruling was favorable for the police and people of Maryland, the situation set a precedent for criminals appealing convictions because police employed the aid of technology to do a task that normally would have been the job of a team of detectives working day and night. Even the ruling of the federal judge left open the possibility that convicted criminals can have convictions overturned if police use GPS without a warrant to do a job that there is reasonable doubt they could not have done themselves.
While on one level the sensitivity to our constitutional rights is comforting, and certainly necessary, the fact that police must now get a warrant to use GPS tracking devices to do in day or two what could have taken a team of detectives a week or more makes their job much more complicated. This issue is unlikely to go away soon, as criminals will continue to appeal convictions and claim invasion of privacy while police will counter that tracking, even if done with the aid of technology, does not violate any constitutional rights.
March 2nd, 2013
Some people love a good prank during the holidays, but stealing baby Jesus from His manger bed should not be one of them. The nativity scene figurine isn’t the only kind to get pilfered regularly, but it’s certainly the most popular. Now, thanks to New York-based company BrickHouse Security, with GPS tracking retrieving baby Jesus is simpler than ever.
When Jesus Goes Missing …
Sometimes those swipes can be costly if the figurines are never found. For example, a (roughly) $1,800 Jesus made of Italian ceramic was taken during the Christmas season in Wellington, Florida, in 2007. The next year, people wised up, and Jesus was GPS tracked. When He disappeared that season as well, He was found shortly thereafter in a private home. That’s not the only instance; unfortunately it’s a common occurrence with nativity scenes all across the United States.
BrickHouse Security GPS Tracks Him (and Others)
That fact is what prompted BrickHouse Security to start its Saving Jesus program, having been up and running for seven years now. The company provides complementary Spark Nano GPS trackers (shipping costs included) for churches and various other not-for-profit organizations for the holiday season as well as free use of their online technology via Google Maps to do the monitoring—and not just groups associated only with Christmas. Many religious groups, for instance those observing Hanukah and others whose celebrations fall during the same time, are encouraged to protect their prized decorations (like menorahs) with the available equipment.
Participants of the “Saving Jesus” program simply attach the GPS tracking device to (most commonly) their baby Jesus and let Him rest; the fact that He’s being tracked is also advertised to discourage any theft. Should He disappear, the figurine owners can go online to their BrickHouse account and locate His exact coordinates, which have the option of being sent directly to local police if so desired.
Apparently the plan is working. The director of Public Safety Outreach for BrickHouse Security, Marc Horowitz, claims that of the hundreds of baby Jesuses known to have their GPS tracking technology attached, not one has ever been taken on the company’s watch. Now that’s a great track record.
February 28th, 2013
One of the many GPS tracking devices announced at this year’s CES show, includes the colorful, compact I’m Here trackers. I’m Here is brought to us by the same Italian company that introduced I’m Watch, an Android smart watch. There are a few things that make I’m Here stand out from its competition. The design of these devices make them versatile, fun and easy to spot if needed. The I’m Here GPS devices can be used for just about any tracking need, from pets, to valuable possessions, to luggage and even family members.
These tiny, colorful tracking devices are about a quarter of the size of an average smartphone. They can be hidden inside luggage, diaper bags, under a car and even tied to a shoe or collar. The small size makes the devices useful for discretely tracking valuables to guard against theft. This way, if a valuable is stolen or misplaced, the GPS can be activated to locate the missing property. The bright colors, on the other hand, make these devices perfect for easily spotting car keys or other items often misplaced. The colors can also be more attractive to children, which may make tracking them a little easier.
The I’m Here devices are connected to a smartphone app. When your luggage, pet, or other valuables to missing, simply activate the tracking device and the location will be transmitted to the smartphone app. The devices also come with an emergency call button, which sends a distress signal and location to the smartphone.
I’m Here will begin shipping in May of this year. The total cost of the device and app is $169, which is a fairly expensive starting price. For this cost, you can activate the GPS tracking device 200 times with no additional charge. Each activation after that is $0.05. Competitors typically have a smaller initial cost, but may include annual fees and more expensive activation charges.
February 22nd, 2013
Being released with a GPS tracked anklet, whether a charged offender from prison or a suspect from court, is a very common occurrence these days. In many courts it’s standard issue to release an individual accused of a crime only after bail is paid and the GPS device is attached. But what if the probation office doesn’t have any? Not one. It’s a highly unusual occurrence.
Eastern Hampshire District Courthouse Ran Out
Those electronically monitored anklets might have been necessary. Fortunate for the judge the accused couldn’t make bail anyway, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that essential supply of the anklets weren’t on hand—just in case. In Massachusetts, four individuals were all brought up on charges of rape against a female University of Massachusetts freshman. As mentioned, they couldn’t make bail and, since no anklets were available to GPS track them if they’d paid it, the judge sent them to jail. No doubt the judge was right to do so; rules are rules. The difficulty lies in what to do with charged suspects when, bail paid, no tracking equipment is available—whether jailing them anyway is a legal thing to do or not. In this case, the judge was dead set insistent on electronic tracking.
What’s the Typical Protocol?
Most commonly, or at least in this specific district, the corrections department waits until the judge decides (or what they think the judge will decide) what bail will be before putting in any orders for GPS tracking anklets, if some are not already on hand. A chief probation officer commenting on this particular case said the aforementioned decision is usually made soon enough during the course of the day to obtain an anklet. What was the reason for this hang-up? The judge gave the bail order about 30 minutes after the court let out.
What did this mean for the four suspects? They wouldn’t be getting out of prison until enough tracking devices became available. If they’d made bail, it’d be a sticky situation in which to be involved—one that ought never to present itself to either judge or suspect, said a lawyer not on the case. His solution? The proper authorities ought to be notified before arraignment of the number and possible use of GPS tracking devices in each case.