Ed Note: The following is one in a series of articles written by PoliceOne columnists in the wake of the recently completed IACP conference in San Diego. Check out the IACP Special Coverage page for complete and continuing coverage of the event. If you attended the IACP and want to share your thoughts or photos, please let us know by sending an email.
About every 30 seconds or so, a vehicle is stolen somewhere in the United States. A lot of nefarious actors reap incredible profit from vehicle theft – but one company in particular has its business model based on the prevention and/or recovery of stolen property such as automobiles, motorcycles, and the like. Of course, we’re talking about LoJack, the Westwood, Mass.-based company founded by a former police commissioner that helps police track stolen vehicles.
A little more than two months ago, the company issued a press announcement heralding the news that the FCC had “granted LoJack’s 2005 petition allowing the company to use the nationwide frequency, which was previously limited to stolen vehicle recovery, for diverse tracking and recovery applications including missing people at risk, individuals of interest to law enforcement, lost or stolen cargo, and hazardous materials.”
For proof that the company has reason to target the recovery of people and non-vehicular property, look no further than another LoJack company announcement (issued less than two weeks ago) which included the sobering stat that monthly new car sales in the U.S. in September fell “below one million vehicles for the first time in 15 years.”
So why is the future for LoJack so bright? For starters, the company’s third-quarter international business jumped a staggering 40 percent. But even more importantly on the domestic front, because the FCC granted permissions that will facilitate the transition of LoJack’s network from wideband to narrowband, the company is very well positioned to continue to drive forward – no pun intended – in areas that are less likely to be adversely affected by an economic downturn, despite the substantial downturn in automotive sales. The FCC ruling will enable the company to extend its integration with law enforcement beyond stolen vehicle recovery to include “other diverse applications all operating on a single network that uses the same nationwide frequency,” according to a company statement.
PoliceOne briefly caught up with LoJack on the IACP Exposition floor to get an update on the company and better understand some of those “other diverse applications.”
LoJack presently operates in 26 states, says Jeremy Warnick, Assistant Manager of Corporate Communications for LoJack, with more than 1,800 regional and local police departments employing the LoJack system. Warnick tells PoliceOne at the IACP that there are plans to add two more western states in the near term, “one of them being Oklahoma and another one pushing out more to the west,” he says. Warnick quickly added that LoJack recently reached a milestone of 250,000 stolen automobile recoveries worldwide, totaling about $5 billion in value.
“Our bread and butter in terms of technology is radio frequency,” says Warnick, who explains that LoJack transmits on 173.075 MHz, which can be picked up by LoJack-installed “special police tracking computers” in law enforcement squad cars and aircraft. “We just got approval from the FCC to integrate different applications into 173 so not only are police going to be able to track stolen vehicles, they’re going to be able to track persons-at-risk as who wander, hazardous materials, and stolen cargo.”
To more clearly define “persons-at-risk” you can figure that includes roughly five million people with Alzheimer's disease and almost two million people with Autism or Down syndrome in the United States today. HazMat and cargo tracking includes road/rail/sea and other shipping containers.
LoJack has been prescient in its move to diversify the types of property it can track and recover, and the recent ruling from the FCC bolsters that strategy. The company entered into a licensing agreement in 2005 with Absolute Software (makers of the Computrace laptop computer recovery solution) and is already heavily involved in the tracking and recovery of construction equipment (police have recovered about $86 million in construction assets in just seven years).
Further, in April of this year LoJack acquired the assets of Locator Systems, which “designs, manufactures, markets and sells products to help police locate and rescue missing persons with Alzheimer's, Autism, and other similar disabilities,” and in August the company increased its ownership stake in Supply Chain Integrity (SCI), to a whopping 60 percent. SCI now sells a product called LoJack InTransit, a covert cargo monitoring and recovery service.
A LoJack company spokesperson told PoliceOne that LoJack’s investment in SCI brings its expertise and law enforcement relationships to SCI, which in turn leverages LoJack’s network of Law Enforcement Liaisons – all former police officers – and its unique relationship with law enforcement nationwide.
The “priceless” piece of all this, to steal from the credit card advertising campaign, is that the LoJack system often leads police to arrest criminals of other more serious crimes, and anything that helps the good guys get the bad guys is A-OK in our book.