Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque police for years have advised residents on how to deter auto theft: Don’t warm up your vehicle in the driveway, have the vehicle identification number etched onto the windshield, park in well-lit areas.
But police are now encouraging people to leave something in their vehicle should it be stolen – a GPS tracker.
Rebecca Atkins, an Albuquerque Police Department spokeswoman, floated the idea after officers used a person’s Tile tracker to find their stolen SUV and arrest the alleged thieves on Thursday.
Atkins said that devices such as Tile and Apple Airtag can be used to locate stolen property but that they should be placed in a spot that’s “not easily visible.”
“If someone suspects their vehicle was stolen, they should contact police and not try and locate the vehicle on their own,” she said.
Thursday’s incident led to the arrest of Xavier Wells, 29, and Monica Zamora, 39. Both were charged with receiving or transferring stolen motor vehicles, and Zamora faced additional charges of possession of a firearm by a felon and drug possession. It was unclear whether either had an attorney.
A person called 911 around 9 p.m. to report that their SUV had been stolen and, according to court records, they were tracking it using the Tile app.
Atkins said the Tile, which operates off Bluetooth and has a limited range, was pinging off others in the area with the app to update its location as the vehicle was driven through the city.
Using the Tile, undercover officers found the SUV in a neighborhood near Ellison and Golf Course NW, according to court records. Police followed the SUV to a neighborhood near Montgomery and Carlisle NE, where Wells and Zamora ran away.
Wells told police that he knew the SUV was stolen when Zamora picked him up and that it had been started using a pair of channel locks and a screwdriver.
Zamora told police she had seen the SUV parked near Wyoming and Interstate 40 and took it because she was “tired” and had been walking for a while. Zamora told police she picked up Wells and was using the SUV to get around. Court records show that officers found a bag of methamphetamine and a gun on Zamora.