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Covert GPS Vehicle Tracking - How It's Done

GPS tracking map

GPS technology is used in a multitude of venues for a multitude of purposes. As the technology improves, so do the possible applications. Covert GPS vehicle tracking is one of the recent advancements and is heavily utilized by law enforcement officials.

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To catch a thief

Covert tracking simply means that a GPS device is secretly placed on a vehicle, then that vehicle's movements are tracked. For instance, law enforcement agencies often use GPS technology to catch car thieves in the act of stealing the vehicle. A tracking device is placed on a car popular with car thieves and then that vehicle is watched. Once the thief takes the "bait" car, law enforcement can track the suspect in real time, recover the vehicle and apprehend the thief. Private citizens can help prevent and reduce automobile theft by placing a GPS device on their own car. In the event the car is stolen, police can easily track the vehicle and apprehend the thief.

Private investigators utilize covert GPS vehicle tracking in their business as well. Placing a GPS device on vehicles under surveillance can aid in their investigations. If a woman suspects her husband may be having an affair, she can ask the investigator to place a tracking device on her husband's vehicle in order to track his movements. GPS technology is used on a daily basis by all investigators to solve crimes, including finding and apprehending sexual predators, persons violating child custody agreements, and various other violations related to vehicles.

Parents of teenagers have joined in the GPS craze, too. To monitor their son or daughter's driving habits, including how fast the child drives, moms and dads are attaching GPS devices to their children's cars.

See GPS vehicle tracking in action

automobile GPS tracking video

click the triangle to play

How it works

Equipment for GPS vehicle tracking comes in many shapes, sizes, and prices. Usually, the more frequently the device relays updates, the higher the cost of the device. These devices can be permanently installed in a car, or can be attached via magnets to the frame. Most of the temporary devices are battery powered and have an option to purchase a longer lasting battery. Some devices can track a vehicle's movements for as long as a month. The devices are also weatherproof.

The equipment for covert GPS vehicle tracking integrates with the tracking software. The features of the software package can vary, which then produces varying quality in the data relayed to the user. Data can be recorded and saved for download later, or can be displayed in real time as the vehicle moves. Both types are useful in covert surveillance, but apply to different situations. With data-recording GPS, the device must be removed from the vehicle and the data then downloaded. With real-time the data is instantly relayed to a hand-held receiver or a computer. Both types of software include satellite maps and/or satellite mapping programs, which allow the user to accurately pinpoint the location of the vehicle being tracked.

Issues of privacy

Use of covert tracking devices has raised more than a few questions regarding the individual's rights, particularly the right of privacy. Some groups oppose the use of covert devices and have filed petitions to require law enforcement to gain search warrants prior to placing the device. The U. S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit ruled that a warrant was unnecessary, that the 4th Amendment of the Constitution was not being violated, and that law enforcement only needed probably cause. Some state and local governments took the federal ruling a step further and enacted their own laws to limit law enforcement use of covert GPS vehicle tracking.

What about laws regarding use of covert tracking devices by private citizens, those who secretly track their children or their allegedly unfaithful spouses? That is a difficult question to answer, because these laws vary greatly across the United States. Generally, a private citizen may only place a covert tracking device on a vehicle he or she owns, leases, or rents. Smart consumers will first check with the laws of their state, before purchasing or utilizing a covert tracking device.

See related information at GPS Vehicle Tracking and

Real-Time GPS Vehicle Tracking.

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This page updated 04-25-11

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