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Software tracks computer thief

Waikato Police are encouraging computer and vehicle owners to consider purchasing reputable tracking software after the successful apprehension of thief on Monday.

District Prevention Manager, Inspector Rob Lindsay says Police became aware of an incident when an off-duty officer phoned the District Command Centre (DCC) to advise that he and a victim were tracking a just stolen laptop computer.

"Our staff member told us that an hour before he had called in to see his wife who was working at a local supermarket on Clarence St when she told him a sales rep had just had his laptop stolen.

"Using software loaded into the laptop the rep was able to track it via GPS to the corner of Anglesea and Caro Streets. While speaking to the DCC on the phone the off-duty officer described the laptop moving slowly down the road so the shift manager in the DCC started radioing up Police units in the area to respond."

Mr Lindsay said the off-duty officer had the sales rep with him and the man identified the thief he had seen on CCTV footage as a person waiting at a bus stop.

"Arriving officers approached the man at the bus stop and found him in possession of a laptop, from there the sales rep was called in and asked to use his password to unlock the device to establish if it was his or not and when this was done the 42-year-old man was arrested for theft.

"Once again we have an example of how technology can be used to prevent crime. It's not just computers that can be protected by such devices too, last year we had three examples of vehicles being stolen and traced including a glazier's van which was recovered in Melville complete with all the victim's work tools."

Mr Lindsay said Police encouraged people to utilise all the methods available through technology to protect themselves and their property.

"Another really effective, cost free prevention tool is recording serial numbers and images of your valuables on the Operation SNAP ( database.

"This only takes a few moments of your time but is a really effective way of deterring thieves from targeting your property or, if it is stolen, helping Police prove a recovered item is stolen and who it belongs to."

Software for tracking laptops include Apple's "Find my Mac", which works via iCloud and can be enabled for those running Mac OS X 10.7 ("Lion") or a more recent version (the equivalent mobile app is Apple's Find My iPhone, used by Telecom Retail CEO Chris Quin to track a phone that went missing at a netball game. The Telecom exec decided to knock on the thief's door him himself. The iPhone "was handed over with little drama," he tells NBR. Victoria University student Chris Cherry used an equivalent Android app, Plan B, to locate his stolen handset, leading to the successful conviction of a caretaker at the university - although to little avail. Mr Cherry told NBR he was furious when he learned the university caretaker had been allowed to keep his job).

Alternatives include, which runs on Windows, Mac, Android and Linux devices.

Neither come with an off-duty police officer.

Read NetSafe's guide "How to keep your mobile devices safe and secure" guide here.

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Comments and questions

Brilliant! Absolutely Brilliant - and cost effective!

Trackers on Trademe for 4100, plus a year for $20 with Vodafone are great value for vehicles.

I believe the "reputable tracking software" would be LoJack.

They are backed by a managed theft recovery service working with local law enforcement, avoiding the requirement for individuals to put themselves in harms way by approaching these criminals directly.

A much safer option.

For the record, Prey runs on Linux and Android, too. I've got it install on both.

if we can use cost effective solutions like this on property why not use the same for tracking parolee's and other villains

One of our clients had their site shed broken into and among the items stolen was an old laptop.

We use Kaseya to manage all our clients's computers.

We saw the laptop was online and connected to it.

We used the web camera to take a picture of the person using the computer, used geo locating software to locate the address in Manaukau, confirmed it using some sites the user had already connected to.

Our client did not want to do anything as the kit was old, etc.

We made some posts on the user's Facebook page about him using stolen computers, changed his Facebook password, cleansed the disk of the client's data and set it so the next time the laptop was restarted the disk partition would be corrupted.

Job done.

All sounds good excepting my neighbour (a new NZ'er with poor English) had her brand new top of the line Ipad snatched from her clutches while she was in her car parked and using it in South Auckland. The fleet footed youth skipped off merrily with it, pursuit was considered unwise. Curiously plod was less than optimistic when the event was reported a short time later, with words I am told to the effect the gps was unlikely to identify which of any specific houses in a street the software was capable of helping identify and accordingly it was unlikely they would door knock any property given them.
On this basis I have to question if chasing nicked technology is as much a priority as them using it to sit in a van pinging inattentive drivers.

I have to agree. If purchasing tracking software package make sure a police officer come with it. As the impression I get is only when you are exceeding the speed on the road do you get urgent attention.

GPS doesn't work great indoors in all mobile phone devices. Find my phone tools are great at letting you know the round about location where the phone is, but it won't tell you the exact location.

Most smartphones use Assisted GPS (A-GPS), which means the handset triangulates its positions using cellular network signals to help compensate in the event of a week or missing GPS satellite signal.