More than 700,000 cars are stolen a year nationwide, and some owners never see their vehicles again, but technology helped an Upstate landscaping company get its truck back in a matter of minutes.
Greenville County deputies said a man stole a GroundsMaster landscaping truck on Tuesday, but little did the suspect know the truck's owner was tracking him all along.
Clint Bright, the owner of GroundsMaster, said he was able to follow the truck's path and help deputies find it after it was stolen from a Spinx gas station.
His crew saw their truck driving away, so Bright jumped on his computer,knowing the GPS system was on board. He called 911 to tell dispatchers where the truck was headed.
"I was able to relay each location to them," said Bright. "He took a left down 290, crossed over right here on Milford Church Road, took a right, actually pulled into Styles Road for a couple of minutes."
In about 15 minutes, Timothy Gibson was arrested by deputies after fleeing from the truck on foot.
"A good lesson here is if you're trying to take a vehicle that doesn't belong to you, you never know if the owner could have a tracking device on his vehicle and could be able to tell exactly where you're at," said Jonathan Smith with the Greenville County Sheriff's Office.
Without that GPS, there would likely have been no arrest and no recovered truck, which was worth about $50,000 with what was on board.
"[We] probably would not have found the truck," said Smith. "It would have been ditched somewhere and the equipment would have been taken off and sold."
GroundsMaster uses a small tracking device from Safewatch Solutions. Daniel Greene owns Safewatch and said after the device is plugged into the vehicle under the dashboard, it only takes a few minutes to start tracking in real time.
"For them to be able to recover their vehicle, literally in 15 minutes, and send their crew back out on the job is monumental for a business," said Greene.
Bright said he has the device installed on all of his vehicles and encourages other business owners to do the same, saving them money, equipment and time.
Safewatch charges a monthly fee for each device and already has many companies, including city and county government fleets, using their services.
It's not just for recovering stolen cars and equipment, but it also becomes a management system for businesses and even families who want to track a driver's speed, safety, travel routes and stops.
Gibson, 35, the suspect accused of stealing Bright's truck, was charged with grand larceny, possession of a stolen vehicle, failure to stop for a blue light and two counts of resisting arrest. He was also charged with hitting another truck while fleeing from law enforcement, deputies said.
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