Police Turn to Secret Weapon: GPS Device
By Ben Hubbard Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, August 13, 2008; A01
Someone was attacking women in Fairfax County and Alexandria, grabbing them from behind and sometimes punching and molesting them before running away. After logging 11 cases in six months, police finally identified a suspect.
David Lee Foltz Jr., who had served 17 years in prison for rape, lived near the crime scenes. To figure out if Foltz was the assailant, police pulled out their secret weapon: They put a Global Positioning System device on Foltz's van, which allowed them to track his movements.
Police said they soon caught Foltz dragging a woman into a wooded area in Falls Church.
After his arrest on Feb. 6, the string of assaults suddenly stopped. The break in the case relied largely on a crime-fighting tool they would rather not discuss.
. . . Privacy advocates said tracking suspects electronically constitutes illegal search and seizure, violating Fourth Amendment rights of protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and is another step toward George Orwell's Big Brother society.
Makes a lot of sense. As the article points out, the device merely replaces the costly and time-consuming assignment of a department surveillance team. Surveillance is not search and is not seizure and is not required to avail itself of a court-order. It's merely police work.
Having said that, the cat is now out of the bag and one wonders at the possibility. Perhaps wives and husbands will be tempted to surreptitiously slap a magnetized GPS device under the fender of a mate's car. Dad may pop one on when son or daughter borrows the family wheels. We are close to, if not already at the point where cell-phones can be surveilled by GPS.
OK for the cops and not OK for your girlfriend? Doesn't look like that will be a choice, whether or not we choose to tie the hands of law enforcement.
If the technology exists, it will be used. Whatever the mind of man can conceive, he will use for his own interest.