Police use GPS tracker to find kidnap victim

Police use GPS tracker to find kidnap victim

GPS-tracking-on-cars1A woman who was kidnapped off the streets of Philadelphia in the United Sates was relocated thanks to a GPS tracking device that had been installed on the kidnapper’s car by the dealer, in case it needed to be repossessed.

Carlesha Freeland-Gaither, 22, is resting at her mother’s home in Philadelphia after a three-day ordeal that ended when federal agents surrounded the car and seized the kidnapping suspect.

Her rescue came after authorities spotted the used-car dealer’s name on a traffic camera photo of Delvin Barnes’ vehicle and recognised the dealership as one that routinely puts GPS devices on its cars, according to sheriff’s captain Jayson Crawley, of Charles City County, Virginia.

He says the dealership sells to customers with poor credit and relies on GPS when it needs to find and repossess cars whose owners have fallen behind on their payments.

GPS devices are commonly used by law enforcement authorities around the US to track suspects and make arrests. But often those cases involve devices secretly planted by police.

As AutoTalk magazine has previously reported, the use of GPS devices has been criticised by some sectors as an invasion of privacy and as an unfair way of penalising used car buyers when they fall behind on car repayments.

Some also believe it is a serious security breach, as cases have been reported where cars have been completely immobilised as a person was driving on the freeway.

On the other hand, car dealers that provide car loans say they need to install these tracking devices as a way of ensuring that they can recover their property, if the car is stolen or if the person cannot make the repayments on the car loan.

The biggest issue for many is that some car dealers are not telling their customers that they have installed the tracking devices, while other more professional dealers make their clients sign an agreement in which it is made clear to them that there is a tracking device installed.

Ultimately the issue lies in how to regulate the automotive industry to make sure that clients are aware of this at the time of signing on to buy a car.

GPS tracking on millions of cars in US

At least three million of the GPS devices that helped catch accused kidnapper Delvin Barnes are on the road in the country, and they are perfectly legal, says an association that represents that industry.

That GPS device in Barnes’ vehicle was produced by PassTime, a company based in Littleton, Colorado, in the US and established in 1992, the company says in a statement.

Corinne Kirkendall, vice president of compliance and public relations for PassTime, says the company requires dealers to obtain written consent from drivers acknowledging that the device is on the car and how it is used.

“All dealers must follow laws regulating the collection of personal information,” she says.

Here’s how PassTime’s devices are used. Drivers can hear notices in the form of repeated beeps to remind them to make car payments. If a driver is late on a payment, the device can send a wireless code to interrupt the start of the vehicle. Once the vehicle is off, it will lose power to the starter.

“But they receive warnings that this is going to happen,” Kirkendall told ABC News.

PassTime says it has about 1.5 million of these devices on the road, and the company estimates it has about 35 to 55% of this market.

Kirkendall also represents the industry’s trade group, the Payment Assurance Technology Association. The association has issued ethical standards, including requiring dealers and lenders to disclose the use of the device to customers.

Some of the industry’s devices have been the subject of ongoing lawsuits, including drivers who say their lenders disabled the starter in a dangerous or inconvenient situation.

Kirkendall told ABC News: “The devices can’t stop a car from moving while the customer is in the midst of driving on the road.”

PassTime offers a 24-hour call centre that allows drivers to request re-enabling the starter, such as in the case of an emergency; drivers can also call the dealer or lender to do so.

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