Car trackers might tell your wife where you were last night, but that’s just about it. Car-tracking systems meant to check car lifting have seemingly become useless as many cars with the gadgetry installed have been lifted from Islamabad and Rawalpindi recently.
In 2011, Anti Car Lifting Cell (ACLC) of Islamabad and Rawalpindi received 137 complaints about car snatching and car lifting. A comparison with records from previous years shows that car lifting is on rise these days and vehicles with tracking systems are no exception.
Experts say that the reason given by some car tracking companies that carjackers defuse or dismantle the device is merely a lame excuse. It is their responsibility to have quick and efficient mobile response teams and hardy tracking systems.
These devices use Global Positioning System (GPS) for tracking. The tracker system works on Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) technology to transmit real-time data. If the vehicle is out of GSM coverage area, the system uses GPS transmitter to point out the vehicle’s location.
In 2003, many tracker companies started using a system called JASIM which directly connects to the network coverage areas of cellular companies. Initially, this yielded good results as most car thieves were unfamiliar with the technology.
However, ACLC noted that car lifters subsequently learnt to deactivate and detach the tracker. Despite this, some leading banks are offering attractive packages on car loans conditional on the installation of a tracking device, sometimes through “low-tech” car tracking companies, giving the customers a false sense of security.
When gangs involved in “de-tracking vehicles” were caught by the ACLC, the robbers revealed that the deactivating and detaching the tracking device hardly takes five minutes. This puts the effectiveness of such systems in serious doubts.
Experts say there are certain companies that use low quality devices which can malfunction. Some companies use locally manufactured devices and software while others are using substandard products and do not have proper guidance maps and management units to operate.
Many substandard systems have a prominent wire that, when cut by the criminals, renders the system ineffective, said one police official.
However not all companies are offering substandard services. There are a few hi-tech companies whose systems are different and criminals have been unable to crack their systems, the police official added.
Ahmed Kamal, an employee of a financial institution, owned a Honda Civic that was snatched in the outskirts of the city. When the carjackers tried to defuse the tracking system, Ahmed received an immediate call from the tracker company. They alerted the police, who in turn encircled the criminals and caught them red-handed.
However, due to the high cost of good tracker systems, many go for cheap alternatives. The ACLC officer said the JASIM system connects directly to cellular networks and was unreliable as it would break down when network coverage is down. He added the tracking based on satellite systems is more effective.
“What is appalling is that most criminals held by police were former employees of tracker companies. We asked these companies to give us records of sacked employees but their response has been apathetic,” he said.
Ali Ahmed, who works for a leading tracking company, said eight out of 10 vehicles recovered belong to owners who fully cooperate with the company. “Whenever they are informed of some issue with their vehicles’ reporting, they quickly send their vehicles to the company for the problem to be rectified.”
Although you increase your security by having a tracker in your car, tracking companies are not insurers; if you pay for tracking every month you just decrease the chances of losing your car.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2011.
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