New technology helps deputies track stolen cars

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When you lock and leave your car, you expect it to be where you left it when you return. But the unexpected could happen, and your car could end up stolen.

Richland County investigators say vehicle thefts are becoming a growing problem, but new technology is helping authorities track the bad guys from above.

800,000 cars were stolen last year, one every eight seconds in the U.S. Auto theft is on the rise in Richland County. For years, deputies say luck led them to stolen vehicles. "It was more or less recognizing a vehicle description and getting lucky with a tag or maybe had a broken window or a guy would just run from you on a minor traffic stop," said Richland county corporal Chris duke.

That's until the sheriff's department found LoJack. Deputies say the system could allow law enforcement to recover stolen vehicles in minutes.

It starts with a transmitter mounted on your vehicle that's matched to your vehicle identification number. If your car is reported stolen, LoJack sends law enforcement a nationwide alert. "As soon as it goes into NCIC as a stolen vehicle, it'll activate the transmitter which usually within five miles, if you've got a LoJack equipped vehicle, it'll start allowing cars that are LoJack-equipped to start picking up the signal," said Duke.

Richland County deputies have six cars outfitted with LoJack trackers. Now deputies are taking the fight to the skies. "Our chopper is always in the air," said Sheriff Leon Lott. "It's on patrol, just like our patrol cars are. They have a regular schedule that they fly."

Outfitting the system on the department's chopper didn't cost taxpayers a dime, according to Lott. Adding the chopper tightens the reins on car thieves. "The antennas on the helicopter are able to hone in on it," he said. "Just like these cars, they're able to lead them to right where the stolen car is."

Corporal Duke picked up the signal of a stolen ford f-150 near rosewood drive. "We're getting closer to the signal and it's showing me the direction," said Duke.

While the chopper hovered above, tracking the signal with the same LoJack equipment, the arrow on the LoJack display pointed the officers in the direction of the car's transmitter. The closer they get, the louder and stronger the signal.
The technology on the ground and in the air will allow Richland county deputies to find stolen vehicles and increase the chances of recovering them from anywhere in the world. "If a car's stolen in California that's got the LoJack system and it ends up here, it's going to be activated and our guys are going to be able to find it," said Lott.

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