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Northshore High Tech: Airborne Express uses technology to catch crooks

William Gilstrap

William Gilstrap of Airborne Express.

Northshore High Tech by Dr. Gordon Mitchell
As William Gilstrap described the situation to me, I could imagine the surprise felt by thieves who were recently caught stealing from an Airborne Express delivery van. Police knew exactly where the loot was when they picked up the bad guys.
   A satellite-based system provided the tracking information needed to solve this crime. Delivery drivers had reported being followed and provided enough information to allow a court-authorized tracking device to be installed in the suspect vehicle.
   At the end of the day, information on the track of the vehicle was provided to major package delivery organizations. It matched an Airborne Express driver's route. This was a strong warning that a crime was being planned against the driver on the route.
   The next day, an undercover officer took the driver's place and a computer box with satellite tracking electronics was added to the truck's cargo. Thieves broke into the truck while the driver was in a building. They took the tracking device with other parcels. It led police to their warehouse, resulting in recovery of $200,000 of cargo stolen from several delivery services. Four suspects were arrested.
   Security applications like this one are probably what keep package loss low in the overnight delivery business. Gilstrap explained that their success depends on understanding what motivates criminals. He describes two types of thefts: "easy pickin's," the sort that have no risk; and "worth the risk," that involve items of significant value.
   Many computer-related items such as memory chips are valuable, have no serial numbers, and can be exchanged like cash; they may be worth the risk if not adequately guarded. Companies like Bothell's Airborne Express pay attention to these items and treat them with special care.
   I asked Gilstrap whether it is better to send high value computers and the like in unmarked boxes to avoid alerting thieves. He explained that when dealing with major overnight delivery companies, it is better to use original boxes so company programs to protect high value shipment can be aware of the contents.

Gordon Mitchell has a background in the engineering management of high tech organizations. He is a principal of Future Focus, a Woodinville company that provides an unusual investigative service, working with commercial clients who suspect they may be victims of electronic eavesdropping. Future Focus performs specialized inspections to locate bugs and taps that may have been installed by unethical competitors or dissatisfied employees. Gordon can be contacted at 489-0446 or via e-mail at gordonm@Bug-Killer.com.