A lot has been written about the major disadvantages that the technology age has brought with it over the last few years in particular. Now that hidden cameras, GPS trackers and other advanced technologies have become so affordable, they’re practically everywhere. You’re likely caught on hidden camera yourself many, many times throughout the day without realizing it.
If someone wants to monitor your every move, they likely can for just a few hundred dollars (or less) — and there’s not really anything that you can actually do about it.
However, while it’s true that our privacy is certainly dwindling away, a lot of good has come from the digital era, too. Case in point: After a two-month series of robberies taking place all across the Albuquerque area, police turned to modern technology to put an end to the problem once and for all.
Albuquerque Thieves Caught by GPS: The Story
During the course of a two-month investigation, local law enforcement officers were fairly certain that they had an idea of who was committing armed robberies across the area. However, they also needed to gather more evidence before they could be certain that they had their man — which is where GPS trackers came into the equation.
Police attached a GPS tracker to the suspect’s car and then just sat back and waited, essentially to see what he would do and where he would go. After yet another armed robbery occurred at a business called Urban Wellness, during which the suspect and another man pulled a gun, fired it and made off with both money and marijuana, police used the GPS tracker to follow the car back to the suspect’s home where an arrest was made.
The problem, however, involves what may have happened next. While it cannot be argued that the GPS tracker played an important role in stopping a pair of criminals before they could continue their spree of robberies, some question whether or not the device was placed legally to begin with.
Although people may not realize it, the police cannot use technology like GPS trackers in any way that they want. They must go through a careful process to show enough cause to generate a search warrant before any action takes place. If the police officers in this particular situation did not complete this critical step, which some people believe they may not have, it could be a violation of the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. If that does prove to be true, the suspect (along with the other man arrested) could easily go free as the evidence that directly led to their arrest would have been obtained illegally.
This has also started a larger discussion about when GPS trackers can be used in the first place by both police officers and private citizens alike. If you put a GPS tracker on your own car, for example, the law is very clear that you’re not in violation of any particular rule or regulation. Even if someone then uses your car — or if you put the tracker on your car with the specific intention of tracking this other individual — you essentially have nothing to worry about because the car was always in your name. If you put a tracker on a car that is owned by someone else, however, it could open up a world of troubles for you, and it could lead to stalking charges and (probably) more.
What, exactly, will happen in this particular case remains to be seen. The police will have to prove that they obtained a search warrant before placing the GPS tracker, which they have yet to do. Again, it’s clear that GPS technology played a valuable role in stopping a pair of criminals before they could strike again. But it also illustrates a very serious point about just how ubiquitous this technology has become — to the point where even members of local police agencies may have begun to take it for granted. This is certainly one case that privacy advocates, in particular, will want to continue to watch as it unfolds.