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Albuquerque police have been advising local residents for years to prevent car theft: do not warm your vehicle in the driveway, have the vehicle identification number engraved on the windshield, park in well-lit areas.
But the 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, launched the idea after officers used a person’s tile tracker to find their stolen SUV and arrest the suspected thieves Thursday.
Atkins said devices like the Tile and Apple Airtag can be used to locate stolen property, but that they should be placed in a location that is “not easily seen”.
“If someone suspects their vehicle has been stolen, they should contact the police and not try to find the vehicle themselves,” she said.
The incident on Thursday resulted in the arrest of Xavier Wells, 29, and Monica Zamora, 39. Both were charged with receiving or surrendering stolen motor vehicles, and Zamora was also charged with felon possession of a firearm and drug possession. It was unclear whether either had a lawyer.
One person called 911 around 9 p.m. to report that their SUV was stolen and was tracked using the Tile app, according to court records.
Atkins said the Tile, which works via Bluetooth and has limited range, pinged others in the area with the app to update its location while the vehicle was driven around town.
Using the tile, undercover officers found the SUV in a neighborhood near Ellison and the NW Golf Course, 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 it up and that it was started with a pair of sewer locks and a screwdriver.
Zamora told police she saw 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 that she picked up Wells and used the SUV to get around. Court records show officials found a bag of methamphetamine and a gun on Zamora.