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NYPD will fight car thefts by giving out free AirTags, mayor says

Court documents say a Utah woman and her new boyfriend both found Apple tracking devices on their cars after they became suspicious they were being tracked. (KUTV)
Court documents say a Utah woman and her new boyfriend both found Apple tracking devices on their cars after they became suspicious they were being tracked. (KUTV)
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The New York Police Department (NYPD) will use Apple tracking technology to fight an uptick of vehicle thefts in the Big Apple.

Police in the city are going to give out free AirTags, small devices that can be tracked by GPS, to residents of Castle Hill, Soundview and Parkchester, Mayor Eric Adams announced on Sunday.

Those neighborhoods have recently been plagued by a spike in "grand larceny auto," according to the mayor, with Hyundai and Kia vehicles being particularly heavily hit by a 548% increase in thefts.

A local nonprofit has donated 500 AirTags, the mayor added. As AirTags are Apple products, it's likely that people with Android phones won't be eligible to receive one, as they are not compatible.

The aggravated number of grand larceny autos continues to drive up crime in our city," Adams said during a Sunday press conference. "This is a simple AirTag hidden in a car at a location that a person is not aware of is an excellent tracking device. It's easy to monitor."
All of a sudden you get alerted that your car is moving," Adams explained. "It's actually showing you in real time where the car is located."

As NYPD Chief Jeffrey Maddrey explained during the press conference, the AirTags will be used when someone who has one hidden in their vehicle realizes their vehicle has been stolen.

The owner realizes car that there car is missing for whatever reason, they call us and we'll look at their phone and we'll use their phone to track the vehicle," Maddrey said.

NYPD Patrol Chief John Chell explained at the Sunday press conference that the AirTags are a "creative strategic way" to push back against the spike in vehicle larceny.

It allows our officers to be more strategic while mitigating pursuits, keeping us safe and keeping the community safe,” Chell said of the tracking technology. “Hopefully we recover your car undamaged, we take a bad guy off the streets, and you get a car back to conduct your business and it doesn’t impose on your life."

In a video later posted to his official Twitter page, Maddrey explained that the NYPD would use their "drones," their "StarChase technology & good old fashion police work to safely recover" the "stolen car."

The 21st century calls for 21st century policing. AirTags in your car will help us recover your vehicle if it’s stolen," Maddrey wrote on Twitter. "Help us help you, get an AirTag."

Maddrey's video goes into detail about how someone can use the AirTag. It instructs people to hide the AirTag in their vehicle after pairing with their iPhone. Then, in a demonstration, a "car thief" steals the AirTagged vehicle.

Police are then notified of the theft and use the vehicle owner's phone to track down the culprit, arresting them. The video says people can "safe guard" their vehicles by "simply putting an Apple AirTag inside of it."

Other NYPD tips on how to avoid car thefts include making sure the vehicle's doors are locked and not leaving the keys inside the car.

AirTags have been used by police departments across the United States to track down stolen possessions. Authorities in Portland, Oregon tracked down an armed robbery suspect in May 2022. A carjacking suspect was apprehended in Chicago in March thanks to an AirTag.

However, there are some reported safety risks to using AirTags. One expert says that thieves can potentially use the AirTag app on stolen phone to locate valuables that have been Airtagged.

Make sure no one else can see that tag. That’s kind of the whole risk of compromising your phone or compromising that application. Someone gets in there and they say, 'Oh, they got four tags for however many important things they have.' That’s the risk,” Chris Humphreys, the CEO of Austin-based cyber and security company, The Anfield Group, told CBS Austin.
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One lawsuit claims that the GPS technology can be used to track people. A man in Texas was killed after allegedly stealing a vehicle, having been tracked down by the vehicle's owner and shot thanks to an AirTag.