Imagine, for just a moment, how valuable a real-time stream of information would be to your personal life. We’ve already seen this by way of our smartphones; thanks to the sophisticated tracking technology built right into your iPhone at the time of purchase, you don’t necessarily have to worry about losing it or even having it stolen. At any time, you can pull up “Find My Friends” and get a real-time update about your phone’s location down to a couple of meters in range.
GPS tracking

The same is true in our professional lives, too. Fleet managers have been using real-time GPS tracking technology for years to gain better insight into their vehicles and the habits of their drivers. Not only is it a way for them to encourage safe driving practices, but it’s also been an invaluable tool with regard to cutting costs and making the most out of already thin profit margins. Now, imagine what the police could do with this very same information.

Luckily, we don’t have to imagine it; it’s already very much a reality. Police are using real-time GPS tracking information to get the jump on criminals everywhere, often with an incredible degree of success. We’ve seen it again recently in Providence, Rhode Island, where one quick-thinking bank teller helped the police track down a robber by slipping an extra surprise in with a bag of stolen money before that thief had a chance to head for the door.

The bank robber and the GPS: Here’s what happened

According to a piece that originally ran in The Providence Journal, 33-year-old Adam Hanrahan of West Warwick, Rhode Island, walked into a bank one afternoon and demanded money. Thinking that he was going to outsmart the police, who would be looking for a particular getaway vehicle, he actually hailed a cab as soon as he fled the scene. But luckily, the bank teller he engaged with included a few key things in the bag full of cash.

The first was a dye pack, which is pretty standard in these types of situations. Once the robber gets away, the dye pack is supposed to explode and cover the cash in blue ink, thus rendering it worthless. This is fairly easy to get around if you know it’s there, however, so the teller wasn’t about to take any chances. He also included a GPS tracker inside the bag.

After police responded to the scene, they were quickly able to pull up the real-time GPS feed and track the robber’s exact journey for the rest of the day. They were able to apprehend him just a few hours later at a nearby dollar store.

Adam Hanrahan was eventually charged with second-degree robbery, and he is expected to appear before a bail commissioner in the not-too-distant future. It isn’t clear whether he has an attorney or if he’ll be representing himself. But as the old saying goes, “The man who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

If nothing else, this serves as yet another incredible example of just how far we’ve come as a society. Even as recently as 10 years ago, Hanrahan’s gambit of hailing a cab to get away from the robbery scene likely would have worked. That cab may have been seen by witnesses or caught on a closed-circuit TV feed, but once he had a chance to switch vehicles at another location, it would have been very hard, if not impossible, to track him down.

But those days are over, and in truth, the police didn’t even need to wait as long as they did to arrest Hanrahan. They also could have just sat back and watched his activities over the course of several days if they wanted to, all the while knowing that he was just a few moments away from coming into their grip forever. Would-be bank robbers in the modern era are going to have to get up pretty early in the morning to get the jump on the latest GPS tracking technology, that’s for sure.