Police sign on to system for tracking stolen cars 8 agencies in state to use Mass. firm

November 09, 1996|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

Maryland State Police signed an agreement yesterday with a Massachusetts company to use its tracking technology to help identify the whereabouts of stolen cars.

Under the agreement, LoJack Corp. of Dedham, Mass., will provide tracking equipment to the state police and seven other police agencies in Maryland to find cars equipped with transmitters, if they are stolen, at no cost to taxpayers.

The agreement would benefit those car owners who choose to pay $595 to LoJack to put a transmitter in their cars. But police and company officials believe the introduction of the system into Maryland will serve as a deterrent because thieves cannot tell which vehicles have the system and which do not.

"LoJack in its implementation and design has created one law enforcement agency out of literally hundreds of police departments in this country," said State Police Superintendent David B. Mitchell during a press conference announcing the agreement yesterday.

For $595, LoJack will place a transmitter -- an innocuous-looking box -- in a car, in a manner to hide it from thieves who could disable it if found, company officials said.

Once police are notified of a theft, the LoJack equipment allows police to activate the transmitter in the stolen car. The transmitter, in turn, sends out a silent signal and enables police in patrol vehicles to track and recover the car, company and state police officials said.

Company officials stressed that the equipment will be used to track cars only if a report of a stolen vehicle is received by a police agency and entered into the Maryland Intrastate Law Enforcement Systems computer. When a theft report is entered in the system, the LoJack software automatically activates the transmitter.

By the end of the year, computer software and hardware will be in place at state police offices. The same timetable is set for installation of the tracking equipment in state police cars and police vehicles in the participating jurisdictions.

They are Baltimore and Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles and Baltimore counties.

The Maryland agencies join police departments in 13 other jurisdictions, including Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., as part of the LoJack Auto Recovery Network -- a frequency licensed by the Federal Communications Commission.

"People in Maryland are sick and tired of having their cars stolen, and this new technology can help us do something about it," said Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

She pointed to Maryland's statistics on stolen vehicles -- one in every 100 cars registered in the state is stolen annually -- as reason for the new tool.

Townsend acknowledged that the administration was concerned about entering a sole-source contract with LoJack, but said no other company offers the service. "We looked across the state and across the country for other places to go," she said. "We didn't want to single source unless we had to."

Charles Daley, chairman of LoJack, said his was the only company with such technology -- a factor he believed led to the state taking seven years to agree to the plan.

"There were changes in administrations, new [state police] superintendents, and face it, people get jittery with sole sources," Daley said. "We just kept re-initiating it and it finally came to the fore."

Daley pointed to his company's success elsewhere, noting that 95 percent of stolen cars equipped with the technology have been recovered.

In the six years that the LoJack system has been fully in place after winning test contracts in Massachusetts and Florida, police have recovered more than 16,000 cars through its use, Daley said.

Pub Date: 11/09/96

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