Thursday, Aug 14, 2008
Someone was attacking women in Fairfax County and Alexandria, grabbing them from behind and sometimes punching and molesting them before running away. After logging 11 cases in six months, police finally identified a suspect.
David Lee Foltz Jr., who had served 17 years in prison for rape, lived near the crime scenes. To figure out if Foltz was the assailant, police pulled out their secret weapon: They put a Global Positioning System device on Foltz’s van, which allowed them to track his movements.
Police said they soon caught Foltz dragging a woman into a wooded area in Falls Church. After his arrest on Feb. 6, the string of assaults suddenly stopped. The break in the case relied largely on a crime-fighting tool they would rather not discuss.
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“We don’t really want to give any info on how we use it as an investigative tool to help the bad guys,” said Officer Shelley Broderick, a Fairfax police spokeswoman. “It is an investigative tool for us, and it is a very new investigative tool.”
Across the country, police are using GPS devices to snare thieves, drug dealers, sexual predators and killers, often without a warrant or court order. Privacy advocates said tracking suspects electronically constitutes illegal search and seizure, violating Fourth Amendment rights of protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and is another step toward George Orwell’s Big Brother society. Law enforcement officials, when they discuss the issue at all, said GPS is essentially the same as having an officer trail someone, just cheaper and more accurate. Most of the time, as was done in the Foltz case, judges have sided with police.
With the courts’ blessing, and the ever-declining cost of the technology, many analysts believe that police will increasingly rely on GPS as an effective tool in investigations and that the public will hear little about it. Last year, FBI agents used a GPS device while investigating an embezzlement scheme to steal from District taxpayers, attaching one to a suspect’s Jaguar.
This article was posted: Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 1:01 pm