Car 54 where are you? Does GPS stand for Good Police Surveillance?

By Douglas Schweitzer
August 15, 2008 6:28 AM EDT
First it was parents installing GPSs to keep tabs on their teenagers' driving habits -- and plenty of people, especially teens, were indignant. Now it seems police in numerous jurisdictions have been using that technology to help them do their jobs as well. Recently, crafty crime fighters in Fairfax County and Alexandria put a GPS device on a suspected molester's van and tracked his movements, which eventually led to his arrest.

When I starting reading Ben Hubbard's Washington Post article about the use of this tactic by law enforcement, it immediately raised my hackles. But then, as I read on I saw beyond what's on the surface. Not surprisingly, the police aren't too forthcoming about some of the specifics of using GPS to get criminals, but I do have to agree that in some ways it's like having a cop tailing a suspect.  Only it's even more accurate and doesn't call for the manpower that following a suspect requires. That in turn saves taxpayer money.

I think that, like it or not, American residents are going to have to accept that we're pretty much under constant surveillance. Security cameras not only at banks and retail stores, hotels, office buildings, elevators, parking garages, schools, gas stations, convenience stores and street intersections and toll booths are now commonplace and can easily be called upon if needed in an investigation. While those cameras have their focus on an entire swath of our population, they can nevertheless be used to pinpoint just one individual if need be. GPS on one person's car seems so much more invasive, but is it really?