In DC, Crackdown on Car Crimes Comes With AirTags

Police in capital teach drivers how to install tracking devices as part of multipronged crime initiative
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 20, 2023 12:05 PM CST
In DC, Crackdown on Car Crimes Comes With AirTags
Officer Cyrus Miller of the Metropolitan Police Department puts a sticker on a windshield on Nov. 7 during an event where police officers distributed Apple AirTags and similar tracking devices to drivers in an attempt to curb a rise in crime in Washington.   (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

Jeff Pena contacted his father as soon as he heard that police in Washington, DC, were passing out auto tracking devices to try to stem a sharp increase in carjackings, auto thefts, and other crimes in the nation's capital. "It's just getting crazy out there," says Pena, whose father, Raul Pena, drives for the rideshare app Lyft. That's why the pair recently sat in a line of cars winding around the block near Nationals Park, the city's pro baseball stadium, waiting their turn for a police officer to install the tracker—literally just an Apple AirTag—and show them how to use it. The initiative is part of a multipronged anti-crime offensive launched by the Metropolitan Police Department and Mayor Muriel Bowser's government, reports the AP.

Violent crimes, particularly homicide and car theft, have risen sharply, and DC's deputy mayor for public safety, Lindsey Appiah, flatly stated before the House Judiciary Committee last month that the city is in the midst of a crime crisis. The elder Pena, 58, says he generally enjoys driving and meeting new people but has become much more cautious in recent months and stopped driving late at night. One week later, Faenita Dilworth told a similar story as she waited her turn to get a dashboard camera. "They told me to get a camera and make sure somebody installs it for me," she said. "If a person knows they're being recorded, they're less likely to do anything silly."

The cameras were free for any DC resident who drives for a ride-share company like Uber, Lyft, or Alto, or for a food delivery service like DoorDash. The AirTag trackers were available to any resident who lives in one of several designated auto theft hot zones. As of Nov. 14, homicides are up 34% compared with this time last year. Car theft is up 98%, and carjackings have more than doubled—up 104%. Recent carjacking victims include a Texas congressman and a diplomat from the United Arab Emirates. The dashboard camera initiative is funded by a $500,000 donation from DoorDash—enough to pay for about 2,500 camera kits.

story continues below

"We do feel it will help deter crime," says Salah Czapary, head of the city's Department of Nightlife and Culture, which covers issues relating to restaurants and food delivery. "That camera footage can help police to close a case and help prosecutors to successfully prosecute that case." Police Sgt. Anthony Walsh said the tracker information would help cops trace the route of the car thieves and possibly pull security camera footage from along that route to aid in an eventual arrest and court case. As for whether the AirTags would allow the government to track drivers' movements, Walsh said residents themselves would be doing the tracking on their phones and would turn that information over to police if they wanted to aid the investigation.

(More Washington, DC stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.