GPS feature helps police nab suspected thief

The GPS feature in a stolen iPhone helped police find and arrest a suspect in a car break-in.

It’s an example of how the location feature can be an advantage to consumers and a deterrent to thieves.

But cybersafety experts say there are times you might want to turn it off.

Monday morning at Waimanalo bay beach park police responded to a car break-in. Among the stolen items an iPhone with GPS tracking.

“There are devices that in case it gets stolen,misplaced,lost,the recovery factor is in the favor of the consumer now,”said Chris Duque,a retired police officer and cybersafety expert.

It was in this case. ¬†According to police they tracked the suspect’s location from the stolen phone’s GPS,located its signal in Kailua and initiated a traffic stop because the driver wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

Duque says the signal alone wouldn’t likely be enough of a probable cause. “The error factor might be 50 meters or 1/10th of a mile or half-mile,”he said.

But this time,it was spot-on. The police investigation revealed stolen items in the vehicle;including the phone and the 19 year-old male driver was arrested.

“The much more educated criminals,they’ll try to disable the GPS tracking features,they’ll take the hard drive out,”said Duque.

But even those thieves may be overestimating the value of stolen electronics. “You’ve got to go and turn that service on some place,and most phones have an ID associated with them,”said Supergeeks VP,David Calef.

Having GPS on can come in handy beyond theft recovery. Duque says,“parents need to turn those devices on with the kids,hikers,or if you’re going to go out of town to an area you’re not familiar with,turn it on.”

And there may be cases where off is better. “Domestic violence cases,and you’ve got TRO restraining orders against the spouses,that’s how they track you,and cyberstalkers will use that,”said Duque.

Not all phones have the GPS feature. and whether you have tracking activated already by default depends on the service provider and type of phone.

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