GPS and Police

July 26th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Christchurch couple used a iPhone app to track burglars who had just fled from their home.

The software led the couple to two Gloucester St flats where the burglars were held up. They called , but were told officers could not enter as they did not have a search warrant.

The thieves later made off and the stolen items have not yet been recovered.

Couldn’t the Police have had someone stay by the House, while a warrant was obtained?

Using Yeng’s iPhone the GPS showed Liu’s iPhone was moving from Matipo St towards Riccarton Rd.

Liu called the police and explained they were tracking the offenders.

Yeng got in his car and followed the vehicle to a Gloucester St property and waited.

When the police arrived at the couple’s Matipo St home Liu said she was told they could not inspect the Gloucester St property without a search warrant, which could take days to obtain.

It could, but it also could take an hour or so.

She felt search warrant legislation was “too strict” and offered protection to the “bad guys”.

Inspector Alan Weston said police currently needed a search warrant to enter a property.

However, a new Search and Surveillance Act, which was to come into effect shortly, would make searching a property “a lot more simple”, he said.

The act will enable an officer to enter a place or vehicle without warrant to search for and arrest a person if the constable has “reasonable grounds”.

Good to hear of the law change, but I still feel they could have acted pretty promptly under current law.

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28 Responses to “GPS and Police”

  1. tvb (3,938 comments) says:

    It would be interesting to test the iPhone app in court to see whether that information is reasonable grounds to enter the property. I think Judges will take a fairly pragmatic view of that providing it is argued properly by the Police defending the warrantless search. Essentially the app gives the location of stolen property as if it could be observed. The police should have risked it.

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  2. Brian Smaller (3,915 comments) says:

    Property crime is just not treated as serious. Never mind, insurance will pay for it blah blah blah. Meanwhile people’s sense of security and safety is shot to ribbons. How many people, women especially, want to stay in a house once they know someone has been rummaging through their stuff? But, I bet there were a dozen cars out parked up on the sides of roads catching people going 110 in a 100 zone.

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  3. thedavincimode (6,113 comments) says:

    Well exactly tvb.

    Perhaps Inspector Weston and the officers concerned would be more comfortable ticketing people exceeding the speed limit by 4 kph in the holiday season. Or better still, manning roadblocks to check whether RUC is up to date; particularly given that odometer readings are recorded during WOF inspections. Yes, a nice little road block is likely to be much more their style – should nicely occupy the Inspector and officers in attendance.

    Good to see that the new boss’ crack down on property crime is getting this sort of reception on the front line.

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  4. krazykiwi (9,188 comments) says:

    Brian – traffic crime is a profit centre, while other crime is a cost centre. Money directs priorities.

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  5. liarbors a joke (1,069 comments) says:

    “Inspector Alan Weston said police currently needed a search warrant to enter a property.”

    no revenue in it so why bother…flick over the page and big story about targeting cellphone users while driving..” we gona hit ‘em hard”. No wonder theres no respect for the police.

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  6. YesWeDid (1,002 comments) says:

    Having been robbed earlier this year and then being totally underwhelmed by the police response I’ve got to agree with pretty much everything said here.

    If you found the location of the goods via the iphone app I wonder how the police would react if you told them you were going around to retrieve your stuff?

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  7. kowtow (6,690 comments) says:

    I’m most certainly not in the hug a crim brigade……but…..

    there are very important constitutional and legal issues involved here and while the police are made to look look foolish in this instance,the same media would probably be highly critical if they did the search and were later blasted in court for it and lost the case.

    Personally I wouldn’t be happy for the cops to rock up to my castle on a possibly unfounded allegation of theft and stomp through the place .

    There are always two sides to a story and the crims are most likely well known to plod ,who know they’ll get them next time around, rather than get a roasting from a judge protecting the rights of the guilty on the back of a hot foot hasty charge.

    Another point is ,the cops catch these people pretty regularly ,but is trial and sentencing quick and tough enough to deter? That’s an issue for the courts and government.

    Similarly the police are now social workers and have all sorts of “priorities” foisted on them by govt and quasi govt bodies. Thus the traffic enforcement,bail check,domestic “violence” issues that seems to keep them from what used to be the stuff that mattered ie catching bad ‘uns.

    The cops always seem to be in a no win position. Overall I think they do a good job and the country should be proud of the work they do.

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  8. UrbanNeocolonialist (133 comments) says:

    Police go anywhere if they are in “hot pursuit” without a warrent. I think that a reasonable case could be made that that was hot pursuit.

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  9. wreck1080 (3,522 comments) says:

    i get the impression cops aren’t interested in solving minor crime, even when handed to them on a plate. . .

    There have been other examples of police inaction, where they have been handed video footage and name of an offender committing a crime and the cops just can’t be bothered.

    Or, more likely, too busy on other things.

    The point is that we don’t have enough police to chase up minor crime sometimes.

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  10. Archer (156 comments) says:

    “Hot pursuit” relates to, for example, a cop chasing an offender on foot and the offender runs into a house/property, the cop can continue chasing rather than have to stop at the property boundary. This case is what a search warrant is for – the Police have grounds to believe there is stolen items at that property, get permission to go in to search. Search warrants can be typed up, sought and obtained in under an hour – as DPF has said if the Police have the resources then have one car wait nearby the address to make sure they don’t leave (if they do leave then Police can stop a vehicle and search it without warrant, on reasonable grounds) while the warrant is obtained.

    It sounds like in this case either the Police were stretched thin at the time, or the request ended up with a cop who couldn’t be bothered.

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  11. Keeping Stock (9,788 comments) says:

    We had a staff member’s iPhone get flogged recently. We were able to trace it to an address, but when the Police called around there the occupants denied any knowledge, and the Police couldn’t do anything more. But interestingly, the iPhone mysteriously reappeared in the place from where it had been stolen the next day.

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  12. wally (58 comments) says:

    My daughter’s iphone was stolen in an Auckland bar. She tracked it to an address in Takapuna. She rang the police who basically said we’re not interested but make sure you take along a male friend if you go there. Very helpful (not).

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  13. F E Smith (3,273 comments) says:

    The couple got had. If the Police had wanted to get a search warrant they could have done so very quickly. And it is common practice in situations like this to leave someone at the property to monitor it.

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  14. F E Smith (3,273 comments) says:

    I mean, seriously, I have lost arguments in court where the police have entered a property, searched it, then gone and got a warrant, having left a guard at the scene. Apparently that is unlawful but not unreasonable, a view that staggered me. So I don’t know what the fuss is about.

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  15. thedavincimode (6,113 comments) says:

    YesWedid

    I expect that they would ask for your location so that they could come and arrest you.

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  16. Archer (156 comments) says:

    Agree F E Smith – I know of an instance of the Police searching a property (without bothering to get a warrant) on the condition that it had been explained to the complainant that if they (the Police) went in they would not be able to charge the criminal (since the search was illegal) but they would at least get their property back. The property was searched, the stolen item recovered, complainant was happy.

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  17. Put it away (2,888 comments) says:

    It’s an iphone… shouldn’t be too difficult to make an app to remotely make the battery catch fire :)

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  18. Nostalgia-NZ (4,685 comments) says:

    There was one case recently in Huntly, p lab or similar, where from memory the police went in without a warrant because they ‘feared’ for the safety of one of the occupants. All the ‘goodies’ were there but the evidence was ruled inadmissible.

    I ‘like’ the F E Smith revelation that something is ruled ‘unlawful but reasonable,’ what an amazing distance police could stretch that.

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  19. tristanb (1,133 comments) says:

    tvb:

    I think Judges will take a fairly pragmatic view…

    There’s your first mistake.

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  20. F E Smith (3,273 comments) says:

    what an amazing distance police could stretch that.

    Never a truer word spoken!

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  21. redeye (626 comments) says:

    They should have said they smelt a joint being smoked.

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  22. kowtow (6,690 comments) says:

    pia

    That’s the Mossad app.

    They blow their enemys’ heads off!

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  23. Mr_Blobby (91 comments) says:

    Yes, not only the sad state of policing in New Zealand but the justice system in general. Even if the Police had acted and found the goods stolen along with evidence of multiple other offenses, people with arrest warrants for failing to appear on active charges, pages of priors, what do you think the response from the Courts would have been. Enough said.

    Having said that no shortage of helicopters, dogs, armed police, anti terror police for a dawn raid on the Dotcom Mansion. The difference being is that this guy was not charged with anything and was arbitrarily imprisoned and his assets arbitrarily confiscated. But hey it is much more fun to play with the toys and run around looking good.

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  24. Mr_Blobby (91 comments) says:

    Don’t know about the Massad app Kowtow. It would be cool justice. But what about the Taser app. Imagine some crim has your phone shoved down his trousers when it went off.

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  25. noskire (797 comments) says:

    My wife and I were burgled the night before the Sep 2010 earthquake – rotten buggers snuck in, closed our bedroom door and looted the place (yes, we are heavy sleepers). Among the items stolen was a laptop. Anyway, I use Gmail as my main e-mail client and have a setting enabled that alerts you if there is any unusual access to your account. About 2 weeks later someone signed into my Gmail account from India!

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  26. F E Smith (3,273 comments) says:

    Mr Blobby,

    what do you think the response from the Courts would have been. Enough said.

    That makes no sense.  If there was sufficient, lawfully obtained, evidence, the offenders would have been found guilty and punished.  Indeed, the vast majority of people charged with criminal offences plead guilty at an early stage. 

    What is the issue?

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  27. Mike Readman (353 comments) says:

    I live on Matipo St. This really makes me feel great!

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  28. Dexter (265 comments) says:

    Some fairly ignorant comment….

    The police are entirely correct. There is no lawful power of entry, the alternative is the police can make an illegal search and end up not only having burglary charges thrown out but also paying damages to the burglars.

    And if there are two possible addresses drafting a search warrant is not a fast or simple task. They have to be able to state which of the houses they want to enter and why, which of course would take a fair few background checks including being able to narrow down the gps data or linking one of the addresses to a likely offender based on descriptions, photoboards etc. A fishing expedition would render anything found null and void as far as the law is concerned.

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