Busted by a GPS

For some of us, watching TV programmes depicting criminals being chased by police cars at high speed across the southern states of the US has become quite a pleasant way to spend an evening.

But as thrilling as this is for those of us who watch such terrifying events from the comfort of our own living rooms, for the American police, high-speed encounters with such reprobates are far from exciting. And for years, they have wished that some technology might come along that would relieve them from the necessity to engage in such dangerous escapades across the highways and byways of their country.

So when they heard about an adhesive GPS tracking device that could be shot onto a criminal’s getaway vehicle, they were quite delighted. After all, once attached, the police realised that they could then disengage from their pursuit, safe in the knowledge that the GPS system would lead them to the criminals’ hideaway.

It seemed like the perfect technology answer to their prayers, and I’m pleased to say, it was – for a while at least. Until, of course, some of the more technically minded criminals decided that they could easily disable such GPS devices by purchasing their very own portable GPS blocker that would immobilise any police efforts to track them once it was plugged into a stolen vehicle’s cigarette lighter.

And that’s exactly what Jimmy ’Two Hats’ Johnson had in mind one winter evening when he attempted to make off with a 2009 Camaro replete with 400-horsepower V8 engine, six-speed transmission and a chassis with four-wheel independent suspension, which the owner had left unlocked outside Billy Bob’s Big Beefy Burger Bar in Cold Springs, Arkansas.

But rather than put his blocker to immediate use, the temptation to use the car’s in-built GPS system to plot the quickest route back to his hideaway proved too great a temptation for Johnson, and so he decided not to use it until he was certain that the police were onto him. So he tapped his destination into the GPS, and raced off in earnest.

Sadly, the owner of the car was so besotted by the scantily clad waitresses in the burger establishment that it was only much later that evening when he discovered that his car had been misappropriated. What made matters worse was that he could not contact the police until later still, because his mobile phone was locked in the trunk of the car.

Back in the Camaro, Johnson was delighted that the heist had gone so well. He hadn’t even needed to deploy his new GPS blocker, because the police seemed totally oblivious to his activities. Unfortunately, while just 20 minutes from his destination, and upon the advice of the on-board GPS unit, Johnson turned into a deserted stretch of a county two-lane, whereupon his vehicle became stuck fast in a snowdrift.

Meanwhile, the owner had contacted the police to report the theft of the vehicle. And having been made aware of the fact that his fancy new phone was inside the trunk, the clever cops used its very own built-in GPS system to track down the car and arrest Johnson, returning the splendid Camaro to its relieved owner.

As he spends his days behind bars, the pitiable ’Two Hats’ often looks back to the day he stole that car. He’s told the other inmates of the prison that next time – if there is a next time that is – he’ll make sure that his GPS jammer is turned on a gosh darned site sooner, although he didn’t exactly use those specific words to describe any future felonious activity he might engage in.

Dave Wilson
Editor, Electronicstalk

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