If you had to make a list of some of the most popular events that take place in New Mexico every year, Balloon Fiesta would undoubtedly be right at the top. According to statistics obtained by the event’s own website, here are a few facts that help illustrate just how popular this annual gathering really is:

  • A total of 1019 balloons were registered for Balloon Fiesta 2000.
  • This included 992 hot air balloons, 90 “special shapes” and 27 gas-powered balloons.
  • A total of 1252 pilots were present at the event.
  • Pilots literally came from all over the world, including places like Belgium, Canada, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Poland, United Arab Emirates and more.

GPS Tracking

Balloon Fiesta 2018 recently took place in New Mexico in the first few weeks of October and, with more than a half a million people expected to attend, authorities were naturally concerned with crime. They were particularly focused on car theft, something that had been an increasingly pressing issue in recent years. However, this year they decided to look for a decidedly more tech-based solution to their problem and thankfully, they quickly found it. They made free GPS trackers available to all balloonists in an effort to help deter exactly this type of crime.

The Power of GPS Tracking and Auto Theft

Making GPS tracking devices available to participating balloonists is actually nothing new for Balloon Fiesta — though the program has ramped up in a significant way in recent years. When it originally began three years ago, the local police department only had about 20 GPS units to give to people to use on a temporary basis. Anyone who wanted one could sign up for the program, but all units were available strictly on a first-come, first-served basis.

The initial response was overwhelming, so officials quickly increased the volume of available units they were prepared to loan out. Thankfully, for the last two years, they have not had a single incident where the equipment actually needed to be used to track a stolen car. A large part of this also has to do with signs that are made available to balloonists to hang in their rear-view mirrors. They let would-be thieves know that the car is participating in an auto theft prevention program and is being actively monitored by GPS, which itself likely goes a long way toward preventing things like this from happening.

If a participating vehicle is stolen, officials are able to begin tracking its location immediately using whatever mobile device they have handy. They’ll get a constant, accurate and real-time feed about the car and it will let them know how long the vehicle has been in motion, where it is parked, how long it has been there, and what the address is at that location.

On a related note, officials also offered free VIN etching for participating balloonists. They also worked side-by-side with local agents from other organizations to conduct “saturation patrols” throughout the event, making sure that no car was stolen on their watch.
For the second year in a row, nothing actually happened — which is all the confirmation most people need to know that the program is successful.

According to one recent study conducted by the FBI, about $5.9 billion was lost to motor vehicle theft in 2016 alone. That number breaks down to a total amount of roughly $7,680 per vehicle. Cars were stolen at a rate of about 236.9 per every 100,000 people, which is actually a significant increase of roughly 6.6% since just one year prior, in 2015.

With statistics like these, it’s clear that vehicle theft is still a very pressing issue in the United States. When you also consider that an event like Balloon Fiesta deals with A) a huge concentration of people, many of whom are B) spending large amounts of time in a balloon in the sky, something must be done. Luckily, something has been — to the benefit of both balloonists and attendees everywhere.