Citizens in many cities are beginning to take crime stopping into their own hands, quite literally. Victims of theft have started tracking down their assailants by using GPS-enabled devices, such as smart phones, to follow the route the mugger took.
For several years, GPS has been used in car navigation and handheld navigation units for hunters and hikers. But with the popularity of smart phones, GPS has become an ubiquitous part of modern culture. Many new phones come pre-installed with GPS devices that can be activated using the provider’s services. Smart phone online stores also offer downloadable apps to trace the location of the phone and its users.
Apps to Protect
Security measures for smart phones involve methods such as locking down the system, emitting alarms, and even deleting all information upon command.
But beyond these security measures, GPS technology gives the best chance of tracking down the stolen phone. A GPS satellite pinpoints the signal, and the app broadcasts the cell phone’s coordinates. Users of GPS-enabled phones can find their stolen items in several ways:
- Apps can text the owner the location of the phone as it travels.
- Apps can display the approximate location of the phone by using cell phone network towers and GPS.
- Finally, some apps also integrate with traditional auto GPS systems, thereby allowing users to use current car systems to do the tracking.
Many muggers do not realize the power of the products they are stealing. When they steal the device, the signal continues to be emitted by the GPS. Police can use this information to follow the route of the robber in real time and then apprehend him on the spot. This saves time in searching for the crook and chasing him on foot through alleys and intersections.
Problems of GPS Use
Lost phone tracking can present problems for police. To follow the GPS navigation route, the phone may still need to be turned on and connected online. However, wi-fi connections may be weak or transmitted for distances larger than the actual location of the perpetrator and the phone.
Also, although the public has the tools to track perpetrators, that does not mean they should track down a thief by themselves. Police discourage GPS users from pursuing an assailant themselves, since confrontation between victims and attackers can turn violent.
Potential of GPS Use
Law enforcement is beginning to use GPS in other tasks too: tracking stolen money from banks, following pill pushers with hidden GPS in narcotics bottles, and tracking kidnappers through childrens’ ID tags. GPS paves the way to reclaiming stolen property. Citizens can help fight crime with just their fingers and a smartphone GPS. Police can trace criminals with the same technology on a larger and a more precise scale. GPS is making the streets safer for everyone.