Not long after a man stole a Choctaw police cruiser and took it for a joy ride, law enforcement officials say there is a need for squad car tracking devices. Most police agencies in Oklahoma do not have the capability to track vehicles, according to industry experts.
The Oklahoma City Police Department, the largest city police force in the state, can track its cars. If an OCPD car is stolen, it can be located immediately. However, experts say the state-wide issue is with the smaller departments and a lack of money.
Retired police officer veteran Phil Stewart understands budgetary constraints but also warns that the crime of stealing police vehicles is one that is not going away any time soon.
"This is a crime that is gaining traction," Stewart said. "We've seen SWAT vans taken before in order to get that weaponry."
Stewart says criminal organizations will target police to get their hands on the weapons and intelligence found inside squad cars. He also says the way to foil the plot is with GPS.
"It's a wise idea," Stewart said. "It's an officer safety feature if nothing else."
While large departments in the state have the technology, it's difficult for smaller departments to get on board simply because of the cost and the subscription fees, according to police chief Rob Groseclose of Nicoma Park.
For the small city of Nicoma Park, buying and installing just six GPS units would cost about $25,000 and that does not even include the monthly subscription fees.
"Eventually, we would like to equip all of the cars with GPS," Groseclose said.
Stewart says there are ways to implement the programs through federal grants.
Besides tracking a stolen police car, additional benefits include dispatchers' knowledge of officers' locations at all times and data collected about vehicle wear and tear.
Joshua Colley, the man accused of stealing the Choctaw police car is being held at the Oklahoma County jail on a $54,000 bond.