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Police Busted When Tracking Device Found On Car 367

Posted by kdawson
from the george-orwell-meets-the-keystone-kops dept.
uh oh notes a story from Down Under where a police investigation came to a screeching halt as a man being investigated by the police found tracking devices in two of his cars, ripped them out, and listed them on an auction site. "Ralph Williams, of Cromwell, said he found the devices last week in his daughter's car, which he uses, and in his flatmate's car after the cars were seized by police and taken away for investigation."
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Police Busted When Tracking Device Found On Car

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  • by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @02:17PM (#20529991) Homepage
    Police have neither confirmed nor denied they placed the devices.

    ...followed shortly by...

    A Trade Me spokesman said the listing was removed yesterday afternoon "at the request of the New Zealand Police".
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iabervon (1971)
      It's well-known that the police have and use tracking devices; they can get warrants for them and present the results as evidence in trials. And just because he has a couple of them doesn't mean that the police actually placed them where he says he found them. Maybe somebody at the police station where he picked up the cars was careless with inventory, and he swiped a couple.
  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @02:18PM (#20530011)
    If the police leave something in your car like that, do you now legally own them? If a burglar breaks into your house and leaves his jacket, I'm pretty sure he can't ask for it back. If the police did not obtain a warrant, it seems like an analogous situation. I'm not sure what the rules are if the cops did obtain a warrant.
    • by Asmor (775910) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @02:22PM (#20530061) Homepage
      Well, it is a very well-documented legal fact that possession is 9/10 of the law.

      Therefore, all the man has to do to be in the right is provide the police with 10% of the proceeds from the sale.
    • by GISGEOLOGYGEEK (708023) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @02:24PM (#20530075)
      Reminds me of when my brother was arrested for siphoning gas from cars ... and after the judge found him to be innocent, he was allowed to collect his siphoning gear back from the evidence locker.
      • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@@@p10link...net> on Sunday September 09, 2007 @04:24PM (#20531047) Homepage
        I don't belive it is illegal to posses such gear so giving it back is the right and proper thing to do if they can't show it was used in a crime.
    • by sepluv (641107) <`blakesley' `at' `gmail.com'> on Sunday September 09, 2007 @02:27PM (#20530099) Homepage
      In general, in common law jurisdictions, I think if someone leaves there property on your land (which is a similar sutuation), it is still owned by them. You are supposed to try to return it or, at least, keep it for so many years in case they ask for it back.

      Assuming the police are responsible though, and they aren't admitting it is theirs, I'd imagine it is fair game. They can hardly complain about him selling their property if they deny it belongs to them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sepluv (641107)

        I've just read a chapter on accessio (Wikipedia link) [wikipedia.org] in a book I have. That is the principle (originally of Roman law) by which the owner of a greater thing (e.g.: a car) can derive possession and possible ownership of a smaller thing (e.g.: a tracking device) that has been attached to that greater thing. This would occur if a house (lesser) was built on a piece of land (greater), or something was written on, painted or stuck to another object such as a parchment, statue, garment or building. Note that t

    • by daeg (828071) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @02:34PM (#20530171)
      The police won't admit or deny they placed them. The owner of the cars most certainly own them.

      I would've attached them to a police car, though. Or a public bus. Or some kid's tricycle.
      • by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @04:37PM (#20531133)
        I would've attached them to a police car, though. Or a public bus. Or some kid's tricycle.

        Or flush it down a fast intercity train's toilet in a waterproof bag. Watch them try to chase it at 120 mph.

        -b.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by gronofer (838299)

          Or flush it down a fast intercity train's toilet in a waterproof bag. Watch them try to chase it at 120 mph.
          Unfortunately, fast intercity trains don't exist in NZ. He'd be better off tying it to the back of a sheep.
  • At what point does it become viable to sue the police for their lies and denials on this case?

    And what kind of law requires a warrent to do something, except when the police are claiming they are in a hurry and don't need a warrent if they think the judge will be on their side? Sounds like their judges have balls even smaller than those of American judges when it comes to stricking down bad laws.

    I bet 90% of the time, the police intend to be in a hurry, and don't even consider asking for the warrent.
    • Re:Sue the police? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 09, 2007 @02:26PM (#20530095)
      And what kind of law requires a warrent to do something, except when the police are claiming they are in a hurry and don't need a warrent if they think the judge will be on their side?

      You do realize that the US has very similar rules of evidence, right? That whole 'exigent circumstances' thing? There are similar rules for FISA wiretaps, even before this whole NSA scandal thing, in that DHS could have tapped someone's phone then gone and gotten a warrent retrospectively.

      It's more limited than the scope of this law seems to be, but the idea is by no means absent from the US legal system.
    • There's no need for "female" judges to admit inadmissible evidence.

      That's what "Police Psychics" are for. To give them an excuse to follow up leads they get from illegally gathered evidence.

      At least, that's what my scam would be if I were taking money from taxpayers under the pretense of spooky mystical crime-solving powers. I see no reason that no one else would've thought of such an obvious (and "plausibly deniable") scam.
      • by tomhudson (43916)

        "Police psychics" won't work in jurisdictions where its illegal to engage in fortune telling, etc. There's a guy who was conning one of my aunts, claiming he had worked as a psychic for the Toronto Police Department. I pointed out to her that it was illegal, and he was a liar: [canlii.org]

        False Pretences

        Pretending to practise witchcraft, etc.

        365. Every one who fraudulently

        (a) pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration,

        (b) undertakes, for a consideration, to te

    • by nasor (690345)
      What makes you think they didn't have a warrant? The fact that the police didn't tell the guy that they had installed the tracking devices when he asked? So far as I know, the police aren't required to answer honestly when you ask them whether or not they're spying on you.
  • by QuasiEvil (74356) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @02:24PM (#20530083)
    I would have simply removed them, disabled them, taken them out on some back road, and run over them a few times, followed by a thorough beating with a sledgehammer. The police won't admit they were there, so why should you? Then they'd have to admit to them to get them back, and you could plausibly say you never knew they were there, and thus couldn't be held responsible for their disappearance.

    Now if you want to get really funny, leave them powered up and transmitting on aforementioned backroad for a few minutes, make sure they get at least one location transmission off, and then beat the crap out of them.
    • Why admit that you have them? So that you can tell the media of shady police shenanigans. Otherwise no one else would know these things occur. This should hopefully make the police more careful not to do such things next time. And it will alert regular citizens that such things can happen so beware when the police take your stuff.
    • by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @02:39PM (#20530227) Homepage Journal
      Or hide them somewhere near the police station and then re-activate them.

      Police:Dear god, he is in the building 24/7 and yet we haven't seen him. He must be an invisible, cop hating machine that requires no food or water! Lets not fuck with him!
      • by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @05:10PM (#20531451) Homepage
        Nope. You want to confuse the piss out of the cops. find where you can apply the trackers to that will be incredibly random. Taxicab is the best choice as they go all over with no real pattern. A large stray dog is also fun.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Opportunist (166417)
          Why so puny? Take an interstate delivery truck.

          Since I'm currently a wee bit pissed at McDonalds, I'd tack it to their trucks and let them explain to the cops why such a highly suspicious guy like me spends so much time driving to and from their depots.
        • A city bus! (Score:3, Funny)

          by swb (14022)
          A city bus is another good choice; some might switch routes from day-day, making an apparently random set of non-random patterns, as well as driving the cops bonkers if they try to tail the car based on the location data -- "we couldn't catch up, this bus kept getting in the way.."

          I also like the idea of driving to the mall and putting them on someone else's car, as well as putting them on a neighbor's car, which might never get found since the car would keep returning "home".

    • I would have tied them on to a long distance lorry.

       
    • Or even better, put each of them into separate packages, mail one to China and one to America.

      Would love to see the police phone bill after that ^_^
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Technician (215283)
        Or even better, put each of them into separate packages, mail one to China and one to America.

        Would love to see the police phone bill after that ^_^
        --


        If the device is not subscribed to roaming service, it could be a waste of postage.

        I think it would be much more fun to wrap the GPS antenna in foil so it can't give the location. Then put it in a backpack and spend a few hours shopping near police parking and impound lots. Unwrap the antenna for a few minutes at each location before catching the city bus.
    • they've already indicated that they want them back .... personally I'd have just left them somewhere really really hard to get to .... but still transmitting
    • Heh - Very Office Space: "PC Load Tracker?!?! WTF is PC Load Tracker!??!" :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PPH (736903)
      Don't disable them. The cops will just do a better job hiding the next set.

      They expect you to be where the tracker says you are, so keep them in the car. When it comes time to engage in some activity of questionable legality, take it out. Maybe have a friend carry it in the opposite direction. When you are done, put it back in your car.

      This could turn out to be the best alibi you could have.

      OTOH, if you aren't doing anything worthy of suspicion, you can really have some
      fun with the cops.

  • by stoicfaux (466273) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @02:29PM (#20530117)

    He should have attached the devices to helium balloons and set them aloft.

  • I believe that at some point in the future tracking devices are going to be mandatory and embedded in all vehicles. This will probably be based on some security or safety concern, which may even be imaginary. Another one reason to be car-free.

    • ... or to help enforce speed laws.

      And that's fine, if the people agree to such laws being passed, and so long as it does not interfere with their constitution. Of course driving is not a right, no one seems to realize that it is a privilege that comes with responsibilities.

      Going down that road covertly is just going to create a lot of hate towards their government.
      • GPS based speed tracking does not the work that well and you can't get a cell phone to work on all roads in the usa right now.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by obarel (670863)
      The insurance industry would love that as well.

      - We only cover your car if you drive according to the law. Three years ago you were going 2mph above the speed limit, hence you invalidated your policy and we are not obliged to pay.
      - Why didn't you notify me then?
      - According to the policy, we're not obliged to do that either.
      - Are you obliged to do anything?
      - Maybe, but we're not obliged to answer that question.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Short Circuit (52384)

        The insurance industry would love that as well.
        When I bought a Progressive policy a few weeks ago, I was asked if I wanted to have one installed. Considering my total daily commute is 6 miles, it would certainly save me a lot of money...But I didn't like the privacy aspect. /I would love to ride a bike to work instead of a car, but that option vetoed by someone else.
    • by T5 (308759) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @03:37PM (#20530687)
      Have you never heard of OnStar [onstar.com]? That fits exactly what you describe - a perceived additional sense of security and safety by having a corporate entity (or a law enforcement or other governmental agency with or without a warrant) track your every move and even listen in on your conversations remotely. The courts have sided with disallowing OnStar's use for listening in on conversations inside the vehicle, but all it will take is one judge and that's out the window. OnStar's just one more good reason not to purchase a GM vehicle.

      "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." --attributed to Benjamin Franklin
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nasor (690345)
        And as I recall, the judge in that particular case only ruled against using OnStar to eavesdrop because it interfered with the proper operation of the OnStar communicator, so that if the drivers had experienced some sort of emergency they wouldn't have been able to use it to call for help - much like the police bugging your phone in a way that prevents you from being able to call 911. It didn't have anything to do with the eavesdropping being objectionable to the courts in principle.
      • by rishistar (662278) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @05:41PM (#20531673) Homepage
        OnStar is a useful system to have in case your vehicle gets stolen. Problem for GM is their cars are so bad that noone will even steal them.
  • Does anyone know the legality in the U.S. of selling, destroying, etc. police devices that have been deliberately left on your property like this?
    • by dhasenan (758719)
      It seems a bit petty: you're considered dangerous enough that the police secretly put a GPS transmitter in your car, you remove it ("hey, what's this? I don't recognize it"), sell it ("oh, Fred down the way might know what to do with it")...and suddenly you're being arrested for selling an object that, as far as you know, was legal to sell. As far as you could possibly know. Because you were being tracked in connection with some other, significant crime.

      Even if you were charged, it'd be hard to get a jury t
  • by BlueParrot (965239) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @02:58PM (#20530353)
    Guys forget about judges, buses, smashing them to pieces and whatnot. You have two tracking devices. The obvious thing to do with them is to glue them to the politicians cars. One to a democrat, the other to a republican. Bonus points if you get a friend to cross-file fake DMCA requests from the respective victims to one another. Jackpot if you can crack their wireless connections and download a gig or two of child porn, Disney movies and instructions for growing pot. Then file an anonymous tip or two... If things are to change it needs to have negative consequences for the people who make the rules...
    • You don't even have to break their encryption.

      According to the article, they already have the SIM card. Use that in another cell
      phone to call in on a dialup and download the port, etc. and then re-install the sim card back into the unit before tacking it to the respective politican's car.
      • by taniwha (70410)
        forget that - just load the sim card up in another phone and call China a lot ....
  • by isaac (2852) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @03:00PM (#20530377)
    The subject in this case, Ralph Williams, has been arrested for theft of property. See http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/1318360/1336811 [tvnz.co.nz] for a more recent article.

    I suppose the police will argue that listing the items as police bugs on an auction site shows awareness that the bugs weren't his to sell. Thus, he'd "stolen" them by their logic.

    Mr. Williams' day in court promises to be interesting...

    -Isaac

    • Is this entrapment? The cops leave their property on your car. You're not supposed to be able to find them. When you find them, you get in trouble.

      I guess the cops weren't so hot on him selling them on eBay. I don't know what the difference would be, though. The cops literally gave it to him.
    • Why don't they just let it go instead of digging a deeper hole for themselves by arresting him and lying. This is almost as bad as the recent incident of the under-not-so-good-cover police agents provocateuse with the rocks trying to start a riot in Montebello, Quebec.

      As stated in the article, he asked the police officer whose mobile phone device was contacting if the police had left their property on his car. When they denied they were theirs, he concluded they were fair game to sell as they were on his property. I think the judge might take a dim view of this.

  • by Jeremy_Bee (1064620) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @03:10PM (#20530459)
    This is a funny story and all, but isn't anyone worried by this part?

    The Summary Proceedings Act, which covers tracking devices, says a warrant should be obtained for a tracking device but an officer can install one without a warrant if there is not time and the officer believes a judge would issue a warrant.
    I mean that puts Australia more towards the Fascist end of the scale than even the US doesn't it?
    (and that's hard to do)

    Since when is surveillance ever an issue of immediacy? You usually engage in it over a protracted period in order to slowly gather evidence. Also a warrant hardly ever takes more than a day or even a few hours to get in any country I ever heard of. Anyhow, what Judge is going to refuse a warrant for a bugging device considered so important by the Police that they have already installed it?

    This seems to be a deliberate loop-hole in the law to allow for warrant-less surveillance. The very fact that a regular police force investigating a fairly low-level crime uses this tactic kind of implies that this is fairly widespread or typical behaviour as well.

    Yet another reason never to go to Australia. ;-)
  • Yeah:

    Let's take them to the nearest airport men's bathroom and past one in each of the stalls!

    Or tape them to the bottoms of seats in an adult movie theatre.

    Or, find out which church the chief judge goes to and tape them to the underside of the pews in that church.

    Peace
    • If you are going to do something like that you really need to pick a moving vehicle. A good choice would be an airplane, or a bus, or the local magistrate's car.

  • by Technician (215283) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @08:28PM (#20532975)
    a man being investigated by the police found tracking devices in two of his cars, ripped them out,

    The article was very sparse regarding what problem he had with the cars that led to the discovery. I will take a speculation stab at this. Cell phones are well known for causing RFI problems with poorly shielded electronics doing everything from causing keyboards on PC's to lock-up to putting a buzz into radio and stereo gear.

    The location of the device was on the passenger side footwell. This would place it close to the engine computer in many cars. It may be an easy to install location for the police and the GPS antenna can be located under the dashboard giving a good location for GPS reception through the plastic dash and windscreen, but the cell transmitter in that location could and probably did cause problems with both the stereo and engine computer. As he stated, it was a botched installation that led to the discovery. A proper install would have located the cell transmitter in the trunk away from sensitive electronics to transmit out the rear window. The car ran poorly, but it was probably the teltale radio noise that geve it away. Removing it fixed both the radio and engine computer.

    This interference issue is why most magnet mount tracking devices are mounted on the rear of the car away from the engine compartment. Inside the plastic rear bumper on a metal bracket is a favorite location. there is little chance of interference revealing it's presence, and good GPS and cell signals.
  • by SirKron (112214) <brian.kronberg@noSpAm.gmail.com> on Sunday September 09, 2007 @09:26PM (#20533359)
    I would have just mailed them to that nice Nigerian fellow who needs help raising funds. I would love for the police to follow the trail to recover them.
  • Dumb crooks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dzimas (547818) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @09:46PM (#20533463)
    The tracking devices were attached to collect evidence. The smart thing would have been to leave them attached and continue life in a nice, law abiding fashion. Instead, Mr. Dimwit rips the bloody things out of the cars and tries to sell 'em. Duh.

Nobody said computers were going to be polite.

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