Big brother could be watching, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
In two separate cases Tuesday, area car thieves were arrested with the help of OnStar, a General Motors service that combines global positioning with wireless technologies.
The first arrest happened about 4:30 p.m. Brainerd Area Used Cars reported a Cadillac Escalade had been taken for a test drive about noon and not returned. With the help of OnStar's GPS capabilities, the Brainerd Police Department was able to track the would-be thief as she drove through Brainerd. She was arrested on Washington Street in north Brainerd.
About 9 p.m. Tuesday the Cass County Sheriff's Department received a report that a Walker resident's Buick had been taken and that the vehicle's owner was in contact with OnStar. The Buick was tracked to Aitkin County and the thief was arrested by troopers from the State Patrol.
Brainerd Police Sgt. David Holtz said he believed it was the first time Brainerd officers had worked with OnStar to locate a stolen vehicle.
"It certainly proved very helpful in this case," Holtz said. "There was no way we would have even known if that vehicle was still in the Brainerd area or not."
Cass County Sheriff Randy Fisher said his deputies have been assisted by OnStar on a few occasions. He said OnStar is one more tool that can be used by officers to resolve cases quickly.
"Anytime that anyone, be it a private individual or company like OnStar, can get law enforcement more information it increases the likelihood of successful investigation," Fisher said.
While OnStar, offered in more than 50 GM models, is most often used for emergency assistance such as traffic accidents, providing directions and unlocking vehicle doors, it also is becoming a popular tool for law enforcement officers nationwide.
Keith Yaden, communications manager with OnStar, said his company's service will assist law enforcement as soon as a customer files a police report. In the United States and Canada, Yaden said OnStar helps locate about 400 stolen vehicles a month for its 3 million subscribers.
"Obviously, law enforcement is in favor of any tool they can use to help them, and this makes it easier for them," Yaden said.
By 2007, OnStar should be standard in every new GM vehicle, Yaden said. About 2 million 2005 GM models were equipped with the service.
OnStar, which first was installed in GM vehicles in 1996, works like a cell phone. In vehicle's equipped for the service there are three buttons -- one red, one white and one blue. The red button is for immediate emergency services such as accidents. The blue button is for routine calls, such as finding a destination. The white button is a hands-free, voice-activated cell phone.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.