AirTags track car thieves — but you don’t have to

Why it matters: As several cities embrace the use of AirTags and other  Bluetooth trackers to combat soaring car thefts, security experts fear the devices can foster a “Wild West” vigilantism that poses risks to citizens — and potential legal issues for cities. 

Zoom in: At least two people have been killed in recent months in cases that authorities say involved victims using real-time tracking data to locate their stolen cars.

  • San Antonio man fatally shot a suspected car thief in March after tracking his stolen vehicle to a shopping center, police said. The shooter is not expected to face charges.
  • In Denver, police say a Colorado man tracked his stolen car and got into a confrontation with someone in the vehicle. 
  • Shots were fired from the vehicle and the car owner, also armed, returned fire. A 12-year-old boy in the car was killed. The car’s owner wasn’t charged.

State of play: New York, the nation’s largest city, this month began handing out 500 free AirTags to fight auto theft and carjackings.

By the numbers: Car thefts in 30 major cities jumped by 59% from 2019 to 2022, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice.


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