Tracking down stolen goods can be filled with wrong turns and dead ends. Thanks to a small GPS device that Deputy Chief Travis Martinez of the Redlands Police Department in Southern California helped develop, officers can follow vehicles, bicycles and construction equipment that have been taken illegally. Installed by owners, police receive signals to their phones when reported stolen items are on the move. The innovation has landed more than 325 arrests. One apprehension recently, however, involved a little trickery on top of smart tracking.
Martinez was off duty when his phone alerted him of a stolen car nearby. He followed the signal to a casino in Rancho Mirage. In the parking lot, he observed a male, who the seasoned cop believed was the thief but had no way to verify. Plus, the signal had fallen silent.
Martinez quickly conjured up a ruse. He approached the man with a tale that he was supposed to meet friends at another casino but couldn’t remember the name. The man offered up several possibilities, and Martinez randomly selected the Morongo Casino. Then the deputy chief offered the guy $100 to escort him because he supposedly didn’t know the way.
As soon as the man started the vehicle he was driving, Martinez’s phone alert pinged again, thus affirming his suspicion.
En route, the officer radioed local law enforcement so patrol cars could arrive ahead of time. But the suspect changed plans and pulled off early. Martinez followed and once again got the man’s attention, promising another $100 to deliver Martinez all the way to the casino. The guy agreed, and upon arrival, he was promptly arrested.
“It just shows you what someone will do for money,” Redlands Police Chief Chris Catren said at a ceremony last month where Martinez received the Officer of the Year Award from the California Robbery Investigators Association, per The Mercury News.
“This is really me collecting the award on behalf of the entire Redlands Police Department,” Martinez said. “Law enforcement has a good tendency to adapt to the situation at hand. This is something the men and women do every day while out on patrol.”
However, his daughter believes Martinez never paid the ante for his cash-on-delivery gamble.
“My daughter tells me I still owe him $200,” Martinez said.