What you you do if you found covert police tracking devices on your car?
A police operation to covertly follow a Central Otago (NZ) man
came to an abrupt halt this week when the man found tracking devices
planted in his car, ripped them out and listed them for sale on Trade
Ralph Williams, of Cromwell, said he found the devices last
week in his daughter's car, which he uses, and in his flatmate's car
after the cars were seized by police and taken away for investigation.
Police have neither confirmed nor denied they placed the devices.
said a cellphone sim card in one of the devices appeared to transmit
messages to the mobile phone of Detective Sergeant Derek Shaw, of the
Central Otago CIB.
Williams provided The Press with emails from
Shaw saying: “If you have got something of ours it would be good to get
it back. You can call me and I can come meet you.”
said he found the devices concealed behind panels in the passenger-side
footwells of the cars. They were marked with the name Trimble, an
international company that produces GPS location devices.
took apart one of the devices and found a sim card, which he put into a
cellphone. He found the device was sending location text messages to
Shaw's mobile number.
Williams placed one of the devices on Trade Me with a price of $250.
The ad read: “Used government covert surveillance tracking. No police to bid on this.”
A Trade Me spokesman said the listing was removed yesterday afternoon “at the request of the New Zealand Police”.
Williams said the cars were seized for investigation after an unmarked police car was torched in Alexandra in July.
investigation produced nothing on Williams, but when the cars were
returned he contacted police because the cars were not running well,
and he asked if they had left something behind.
Shaw emailed: “Can't immediately think of anything we would have left … Like what …?????”
Williams said he and Shaw then spoke on the phone, with Shaw telling him the devices were valuable and should be returned.
Shaw then emailed repeatedly asking for “the stuff” back.
contacted by The Press, Shaw declined to comment other than to say:
“Police use a variety of legitimate investigation techniques when
investigating serious crime. However, it is not the policy of the
police to comment on those techniques or other operational matters.”
would not say whether a warrant had been obtained for the devices. The
Summary Proceedings Act, which covers tracking devices, says a warrant
should be obtained for a tracking device but an officer can install one
without a warrant if there is not time and the officer believes a judge
would issue a warrant.
Williams said he did not know why police
were interested in him. He spent two years in jail “20 years ago” for
selling marijuana to an undercover policeman, but had no convictions
Williams said the devices were not hard to find and he described the operation as “a bumbling attempt” by “weirdos”.
Zealand Civil Liberties Council chairman Michael Bott said the affair
had “shades of (George Orwell's) Nineteen Eighty-four”, as well as
“shades of the Keystone Kops”.
We think Orwell would have approved of Williams approach to this.