Still not convinced by AirTags? They just helped police recover $5 million of stolen items

Airtag Hero
Apple's AirTag (Image credit: Future)

Apple's AirTags are over three years old now. Despite this, they're still fantastic options for anyone who finds their keys mysteriously disappearing. But if you're yet to be convinced by the Bluetooth trackers, this recent police story might just help you change your mind. AirTags manage to recover $5 million worth of stolen items thanks to the location data they share.

As explained to The Washington Post, a carpenter from Northern Virginia, weary of constant overnight thefts, took matters into his own hands by planting AirTags on his tools. The thieves struck again on January 22, making off with a fresh batch of the carpenter's tools, including a few seeded with AirTags. Armed with his iPhone, he began tracking the items, leading him through the DC metro suburbs and ultimately to a storage facility in Howard County.

Instead of going full vigilante, the carpenter wisely called in the police. The authorities, armed with a search warrant, raided the storage unit and uncovered not just the carpenter's tools but the tip of a much larger iceberg. Further investigation led to a total of 12 storage facilities packed with over 15,000 stolen tools, collectively valued at around $5 million. The loot appeared to have been pilfered from retail stores, businesses, vehicles, residential properties, and construction sites across Northern Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Howard County Police Chief Gregory Der acknowledged the enormity of the investigation, revealing that they were still hot on the trail of several suspects, with charges expected soon. Despite the complexity of the case, the carpenter has already reclaimed about half a dozen of his stolen tools. In a bid to return the remaining stolen items, the police have launched a website where victims can log their stolen property in hopes of reclaiming it. So far, they've identified around 80 victims of this grand theft spree.

Another reason to buy AirTags

Apple's AirTags have been central to many theft and recovery stories, often involving stolen cars and luggage. However, their utility comes with a cautionary tale, as they've also been misused for stalking. To counteract this, Apple has updated the AirTag firmware to alert users when an AirTag has been planted without their knowledge. The company has also made the AirTag detection software available on both iPhone and Android, ensuring broader protection against unwanted tracking.

And they're only set to get better, with a new generation reportedly on the way next year. Top Apple analyst Mark Gurman says the new model, codenamed B589, is slated to arrive "around the middle" of next year, and that "Apple is already doing test runs with manufacturing partners in Asia" in anticipation of launch. 

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Connor Jewiss

Connor is a technology writer and editor, with a byline on multiple platforms. He has been writing for around seven years now across the web and in print too. Connor has experience on most major platforms, though does hold a place in his heart for macOS, iOS/iPadOS, electric vehicles, and smartphone tech.