UW News

July 8, 2004

Thieves beware: New police tool makes it harder to steal, dispose of cars with tracking equipment

UW News

Car thieves beware: There’s a new police tool at the University that might reduce your job efficiency.

It’s called the LoJack Police Tracking Computer, or just The Tracker, and the UW Police have installed it in two of their six marked cars. The Tracker enables police to find stolen vehicles that have been equipped with a LoJack, which is a small transponder that people can purchase and have installed in their cars.

Here’s how it works: When a vechicle is found to be missing, its owner reports it as stolen to the local police department and the information gets added to the National Crime Information Center’s database. If the car bears a LoJack transponder — available for purchase from the company — that device will be activated when the car’s identification number gets entered in that national database.

Activating the transponder causes it to broadcast a silent radio signal every 15 seconds. If a suitably equipped police car comes within the 5-mile radius of the signal, the police car’s Tracker will pick up the signal along with the direction and proximity of the stolen car. Police can then find and retrieve the car and make an arrest with a minimum of lost time.

Annette Spicuzza, UW police assistant chief for support services, said the LoJack company has provided the UW with two Trackers at no charge, to see how many signal “hits” or received signals they get.

Spicuzza said the police got the trackers in the last month and are just getting started implementing the system. She said the LoJack company has been in existence for about 18 years and has helped find and recover about 65,000 stolen vehicles in the United States. The devices have not detected any stolen cars in the UW area, but Spicuzza said she thinks the system could ultimately enable people to recover their stolen cars before the cars meet an even more destructive fate.

“What we will find is that these vehicles will be found prior to them being taken apart, chopped up (for parts),” she said. “And what’s nice is that we might find the vehicle while it’s being parked, waiting to be picked up.”

Finding a stolen car at that point also increases the possibility of police apprehending the thief, too — possibly behind the wheel.

“This can be a huge deterrent to people stealing cars when they realize now there’s a tracking device on board and a chance that if you drive it by a police vehicle with one of the monitors, your chances of getting away will drop slightly.”

According to FBI statistics quoted by the LoJack Company, a motor vehicle is stolen every 25.3 seconds in the U.S., and about 1.2 million vehicles were stolen nationwide in 2002.

Vehicle thefts occur at the UW, too, with 44 thefts in 2003, 35 in 2002 and 46 in 2001. At the UW and nationally, Hondas and Toyotas were the most often-stolen vehicles.

For more information about LoJack, visit the company’s Web page at http://www.LoJack.com. For more information about UW Police, visit http://www.washington.edu/admin/police.