Tracking devices built into items commonly targeted by criminals are increasingly leading police to unwitting thieves, even bringing down entire criminal syndicates in the process.
Auckland police say the GPS technology built into vehicles and electronic gadgets like iPhones and iPads has gifted them a number of recent arrests.
Sergeant Tony Curry of the Counties Manukau East tactical crime unit said one of the best examples was the recovery of a truck laden with $20,000 worth of toilet rolls.
Stolen from East Tamaki in February, the theft was part of a stolen-to-order criminal enterprise.
Curry said that using GPS technology to locate the truck led to the arrest of four people on charges ranging from burglary to receiving stolen goods
The items can be tracked using services such as Apple's MobileMe which allows users to remotely locate their lost or stolen iPhones using global positioning systems.
Sergeant John Allen from the Henderson police burglary squad said GPS technology in electrical goods and vehicles had helped police solve around four cases in recent weeks.
In April a $60,000 GPS-fitted truck was stolen from near Kumeu at around 5am one morning. The owner arrived at work, discovered it stolen, activated the device and tracked it to a Massey address.
He called police to the property where the truck was found inside a barn. A man was charged in relation to the theft.
Allen said everyone should be taking advantage of the software which is often free and takes little time to set up.
"What does it take? Like three or four minutes to put on and then you get your phone back."
Because the tools were relatively new, people did not yet understand the real value of it, he said.
Curry said the technology was making their lives much easier.
"I wish they would fit them into TVs. We lose thousands of TVs and I would love to know where they are going to."
A number of other examples were provided by South Auckland police.
On Saturday night a man had his iPad stolen from Remuera, a police spokeswoman said.
By activating the device, the man was able to follow it by GPS to Pakuranga and then to Mt Wellington.
Officers went to the address where they spoke to an 18-year-old male and found the stolen the iPad.
They also located the victim's mobile phone.
In another case, a man who was burgled tracked his phone down online and directed police to a house in Otara.
As a result, police spoke to a man at the home who was charged with receiving stolen property.
In May, a woman was assaulted and her handbag containing her GPS-enabled iPhone stolen from Papatoetoe.
Using this, police tracked down the stolen vehicle that the offender had been driving though not the handbag or iPhone.
Police are also using the technology overseas.
In Australia in December, police used a helicopter to track down a culprit who had stolen an iPhone from a woman in a Melbourne hospital.
In July, San Francisco police apprehended a thief nine minutes after he stole an iPhone from a woman's hand.
- © Fairfax NZ News