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The depressing truth about tracking devices is that 25% are bought by abuse perpetrators

- June 27, 2024 2 MIN READ
GPS tracking
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While ASX-listed Life360 has been a godsend to parents keen to keep an eye on the whereabouts of their children without having to stalk their TikTok accounts, a disturbing trend around GPS tracking devices has emerged in analysis of who’s buying them by the NSW Crime Commission.

A large number of criminals and domestic violence perpetrators are using GPS tracking devices with criminal intent.

NSW Crime Commissioner Michael Barnes said tracking devices were increasingly used by organised criminal networks to facilitate organised crime, including murder, kidnapping, and drug trafficking, and extensively being used by high risk domestic and family violence offenders.

The commissioner has recommended tighter controls over their sale.

The Crime Commission looked into the issue as Project Hakea and analysed records of more than 5500 tracking devices sold to more than 3000 NSW- based customers since the beginning of 2023.

By matching sales data against criminal histories and intelligence records, they found that

    • 37% of purchasers were adversely known to police.
    • 25% had a history of domestic and family violence (DFV).
    • 15% had a history of serious and organised crime.
    • 9% of buyers had a history of both domestic and family violence and serious and organised crime.

The analysis also showed a high number of offenders convicted of offences had used GPS tracking devices as a tool in their criminality.

Commissioner Barnes said tracking devices were accessible, inexpensive, and easily concealed.

“Tracking devices are frequently used by organised crime networks to monitor, locate, and ultimately attack their rivals, in fact they are now part of standard toolkit for violent organised crime,’’ he said.

“Disturbingly, Project Hakea revealed that in addition to the extensive use of tracking devices by organised criminals, their widespread use by DFV offenders creates an urgent need to address the issue.

“Domestic violence perpetrators use tracking devices as part of a series of behaviours intended to intimidate, frighten, and control their intimate partners.”

Commissioner Barnes said Project Hakea also revealed a significant overlap between organised crime and DFV offending.

“Organised criminals use tracking devices to monitor and control their intimate partners. The significant nexus between organised crime and DFV offenders cannot be denied,” he said.

Project Hakea also took a closer look at private investigators (PI) and spy-stores with additional concerns emerging.

“There are some individuals in the PI industry who appear to be knowingly facilitating crime, or even committing crime themselves by clandestinely tracking targets at the behest of their clients,” Barnes said.

The report features case studies of how offenders use tracking devices to enable crime, but Barnes said it’s challenging for law enforcement to tackle.

The Crime Commission made five recommendations for reform to access to tracking devices by criminals, strengthening criminal legislation to reflect the seriousness of this type of offending and increasing community safety.

“Law enforcement efforts to locate tracking devices and investigate criminal offending are frustrated due to under regulation of the sale of these devices,” he said.

“Regulation aimed at increasing the ability of law enforcement to investigate exactly who is purchasing these devices and to match a device that is found to a purchaser will allow more proactive efforts by law enforcement to disrupt offending before it occurs.”