Washington D.C. Handing Out AirTags to Crack Down on Car Thefts

Apple AirTag in Keychain Case Credit: Dreii / Shutterstock
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Officials in Washington D.C. are handing out free Apple AirTags in the hope that the tracking devices can be used to help reduce the number of car thefts, according to a report by WAMU.

Washington D.C. has joined New York City in handing out free AirTags to residents in certain neighborhoods to allow them to track the location of their car if it is stolen.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the new program on Wednesday. District officials are hoping that the free tracking tags will make stolen vehicles easier to locate.

The AirTags will be distributed to D.C. residents living in neighborhoods with a large number of vehicle thefts. The tracking tags will be offered at three different events in the coming months. Washington, D.C., police will also assist residents in hiding the AirTags in their cars.

Residents will be required to provide proof of residency with an address that is located in an eligible police service area before receiving a tag.

What we know is individuals that are involved in this type of criminal activity often commit multiple offenses, and a single arrest can help bring closure to multiple cases.Pamela Smith, Washington D.C. Acting Police Chief

The city is handing out the AirTags in the hope that they will aid police in catching the repeat offenders Smith referred to.

This initiative in Washington, D.C. comes on the heels of a similar program in New York City, initiated in May of this year. At the time the program was announced, Mayor Eric Adams said the AirTags are “a 21st-century” policing initiative to track stolen cars, calling the AirTags a “really amazing piece of ingenuity.”

New York City officials and NYPD officers handed out 500 AirTags to citizens, in hopes that the program would discourage carjackings in the city and possibly aid in the recovery of those vehicles.

The 500 AirTags in New York City were donated by the Association for Better New York, a nonprofit organization.

New York City officials initiated the program after car thefts increased 13% in the first few months of this year compared the same period in 2022. New York City officials concentrated most of the AirTag handouts in the Bronx, where grand larceny auto had risen 24% over last year.

“This simple device, this simple AirTag, hidden in a car location that a person is not aware, of is an excellent tracking device,” Mayor Adams said. “It’s easy to monitor. You can see in real-time where the vehicle is located.”

“Your phone will be alerted. You know someone’s in your car who’s not supposed to be, and/or it’s stolen. You call 911 as fast as you can,” NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell added. “You tell the officers involved ‘I have an AirTag,’ and they will immediately with citywide apprehension apparatus will start putting that tag citywide.”

New York City officials have not yet announced how well their program has worked. There are concerns that since Apple’s AirTags make a sound and also send a notification to iPhone users when an AirTag is in the general vicinity, this may foil the Washington D.C. and NYC programs. Time will tell.

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