Someone Tried to Use an AirTag to Track a Police Car in Japan?It Didn’t Work

It seems the world’s dumbest criminals aren’t limited to the United States, as the device was easily spotted.
Japanese police car Credit: StreetVJ / Shutterstock
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It seems the world’s dumbest criminals aren’t only coming from the United States. A recent report highlights how an as-yet-unknown stalker in Japan had the audacity to try and track a police car with an AirTag.

While the popularity of Apple’s AirTags has led to no small number of stories about not-too-bright people abusing them for criminal purposes, this is the first time we’ve heard of someone being dumb enough to try and use an AirTag to try and track the police.

According to Japan’s Sora News 24, an AirTag was found planted on an unmarked Japanese police vehicle by somebody who clearly knows little about either cars or the police.

Upon returning to his vehicle, a detective with the Aichi Prefectural Police in Toyota City noticed a black plastic box attached to the car’s muffler. Upon opening it, he discovered an AirTag inside. He naturally removed it and notified the rest of the division’s officers to go on alert to check their vehicles thoroughly before taking them out.

No other AirTags were found, however, police haven’t yet been able to determine who planted the one found on the unmarked vehicle. The car was in the visitor’s parking lot when the AirTag was found, so the stalker wouldn’t have required any special level of access to plant the tag.

It’s also hard to ascertain who it is based simply on the motive since pretty much every criminal in the area would have a reason to want to know where a detective’s police vehicle is at any given time. However, the amateur way in which it was planted seems to rule out a professional criminal; it may also have been somebody planting it merely for kicks or as a prank.

Nevertheless, police are taking the matter seriously, and aren’t ruling out the possibility that it was the work of an organized crime group. Since all AirTags have a serial number that’s registered to the Apple ID used to activate them, it shouldn’t take too long for police to track this particular tag back to its owner. Apple is clear that it will cooperate with any proper law enforcement requests to identify the Apple ID associated with an AirTag.

As one Sora News 24 commenter pointed out, AirTags are also very hard to buy in cash in Japan, so even if the criminal was hiding behind a throwaway “burner” iPhone and Apple ID, it shouldn’t be too difficult for police to follow the purchase history.

Considering there are many other tracking devices available that are more insidious and virtually untraceable, it’s unlikely that any professional criminal would resort to using one of Apple’s AirTag to do something as risky as tracking a police car.

The other part that makes this a particularly foolish stunt is the stalker’s choice of location for the AirTag. As the Sora News 24 report explains, putting the AirTag on the car’s muffler could have quickly rendered it useless anyway. Mufflers can easily heat up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, while Apple only certifies the AirTag for temperatures of up to 140 degrees.

Granted the AirTag was encased in a plastic box of some sort, so it’s hard to say how much thermal insulation that would offer, but it’s still likely that things would have gotten too hot for the poor little AirTag to handle.

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