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How Georgia Federal Agencies and Police Use GPS Tracking

Using GPS to Locate Criminals and Gather Evidence

Vehicle tracking systems have been used by government agencies as a way to gather evidence against crime. The advances in both GPS (Global Positioning System) and GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) technology present many advantages as well as challenges for law enforcement use. 

GPS systems allow law enforcement to collect data related to vehicle locations without having to be present at all times. The systems are equipped with technology that allows the collection of data within a particular range accurately. This lets the information to flow, which is then collected as evidence.

GPS data can also help lead authorities to stolen or missing vehicles. But the many features of GPS technology and devices are not only used for the purpose of tracking vehicles. GPS tracking devices can trail suspicious cargo for example, which provides valuable evidence for the prosecution of criminal activities. 

What would the federal government use GPS for?

Government fleets use fleet tracking technology to monitor fuel usage, improve routing, control labor costs, and improve public and driver safety. Consequently, much is definitely gained from location intelligence. But the key benefits don’t stop here when it comes to law enforcement. 

How does law enforcement use location tracking?

Federal agents and police officers can attach a GPS tracker for a car to a suspect’s vehicle. Once the device is in place, it’s easy to monitor every move a suspect makes. GPS tracking devices allow a degree of long-term surveillance that would normally be difficult or impossible to conduct without being detected.

Chief Law Enforcement Uses

  • Tracking of persons and conveyances:

    Technological advances in circuitry and microchip technology have lead to a miniaturization of GPS transmitting “pinger” type devices. For law enforcement use, concealability and ease of installation on transports of investigative targets is a critical requirement.  There are many commercially available GPS and GNSS based devices on the market today that cater not only to law enforcement application, but also use in private investigations, retail and vehicle theft prevention and recovery, as well as high value property tracking. 

 Tracking of illicit and illegal seized items:

Tracking of seized contraband has long been an investigative technique of law enforcement. Case in point, it is not uncommon for loads of illegal drugs to be seized by U.S. Customers and Border Protection officers at ports of entry along the southwest border. When destined for hub cities such as Atlanta, investigators will sometimes execute a well-organized activity pertaining to these loads in an attempt to identify and apprehend conspirators involved with their receipt and distribution. 

A common investigative technique involves concealing GPS trackers in these seized loads to maximize surveillance and tracking to prevent loss. In years past, this was a challenge as at times the size of GPS tracking devices was not conducive to concealment. With technology miniaturization now, it is easy to conceal a small GPS pinging device in a false wall or compartment of a container holding illegal items. Being that these devices are commercially available, it is also not uncommon for criminals themselves to purchase and conceal GPS trackers in their loads and shipments. They can then track them to determine if delays or changes in their planned movements occur that could indicate law enforcement interference.  

 Blending GPS Tracking Technologies

 Although GPS tracking technologies offer many advantages for certain types of applications, they do have their limitations. Commercial GPS devices and systems such as those found in many new vehicles like the OnStar system or other GPS tracking devices for fleets also have external or visible antennas to maximize signal transmission.  

The challenge of covert devices is when tracking involve signal capability or the ability of the device to ping a signal to the GNSS network regardless of location or interference (i.e. underground or covered garage, storage areas, metal containers, remote mountainous areas, urban cities). Thus, sometimes blended technologies are necessary; especially in law enforcement applications to ensure critical items, vehicles, or contraband are continuously tracked.  

In limited circumstances radiolocation tracking technologies are still in use. These are also known as radiolocating or radiopositioning. This is the process of finding the location of something through the use of radio waves. It is installed in many new vehicles, which allow law enforcement to locate and track stolen vehicles using a multi-antenna array installed on a police vehicle or aircraft that detects signal direction and proximity. Additionally, mobile cell tower geo location devices, now commercially available, offer additional options for tracking. 

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 Legal Issues

The proliferation of GPS and other tracking devices and technologies has prompted courts to weigh the cost and benefits of using these technologies against privacy and personal security. Virtually unregulated just a few years ago for law enforcement application, new laws and recent court decision limit law enforcement application and use of these technologies without court order or warrant. 

In the private sector depending on jurisdiction, sometimes installed GPS tracking devices in cars or commercial vehicles are “noticed”, or clear and visible warnings are posted for drivers and passengers that a vehicle or conveyance they are operating or occupying is being tracked with geo location technology. Such is the case for commercial fleets where owners and managers can track both drivers and assets to both minimize costs and maximize asset production and uptime.

What exactly is geolocation?

Geolocation indicates the use of location technologies such as GPS or IP addresses to recognize and track the whereabouts of connected electronic devices. Geolocation is often used to track the movements and location of people and surveillance.

A common use of GPS and other geo location devices is in the realm of private investigations too. According to former Police Officer, Frank Hidalgo Jr., “GPS tracking is used for domestic surveillance in cases of spouse infidelity, tracking of children by parents, elderly relatives and pets. Some GPS devices are small enough to attach to pet collars, or conceal in glove box or console, or drop into a purse. Although less scrutinized in private use as opposed to use by law enforcement and government agencies, some states and certain courts have taken certain actions to regulate public use of these devices out of privacy concerns”.

If you’d like to learn more about how GPS Trackit can help to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs for your business, speak with one of our knowledgeable Fleet Advisors at 866-320-5810 or get a quick Custom Quote.

Sources: 

https://www.brickhousesecurity.com/gps-trackers/how-police-use-gps/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiolocation

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