WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Members of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) handed out free AirTags and Tiles to drivers Thursday night, as car thefts and carjackings surged across the district.
“People are taking people’s property without right. And it disrupts the everyday life of that person,” said MPD Sergeant Anthony Walsh.
Walsh said the goal is to prevent car thefts and carjackings, while also helping recover cars that are taken.
“We’re hoping it’ll prevent it. They know, ‘Hey, this is being tracked.’ The owner can quickly look at where their vehicle is. Officers can recover it quickly and hopefully make apprehensions,” he said.
AirTags and Tiles were given out to residents living in six areas of the district, where data showed carjackings and car thefts happen the most. The resident gets to keep the device and police do not have access to the tracking data.
The tracker is hidden inside the car. The driver then uses their smartphone to connect to and track the device.
“They’re very excited. The first person I talked to said they lined up at 1 p.m. today,” said Walsh.
“I’m concerned about safety. There’s been a lot of car thefts lately,” said Debra Richardson, who received an Air Tag. “D.C. has this going on today and I thought I’d take advantage of it. At least it’ll help me find my car if it’s stolen.”
According to MPD data, more than 6,000 cars have been stolen this year. That’s up 100% from the same time last year.
849 people have been carjacked.
“With COVID, it seems like someone punched a button and everything was turned upside down,” said Richardson.
“The possibility (of being carjacked) is pretty heightened living pretty much anywhere these days but in the District, we’ve had our issues,” said Mark Carter, who picked up an AirTag for his mother.
Carter said he supports efforts by the district to address the problem.
“I think the recovery rate is a little low, lower than we’d like to have it. Anything we can do on our part, it helps,” he said.
Walsh said other cities like New York and Denver have had success with similar programs. He’s hopeful D.C. will do the same.