8th September 2023
- Save Lives- De-weaponise the motor car, stolen or not.
- Rapidly locate victims- Any criminality involving the use of a vehicle can be tracked in real time, and victims can be recovered.
- Reduce crime – By increasing the ability for perpetrators to be caught and the stolen vehicle disabled, making them useless to crooks before they commit the crime.
- Cost positive – Recover stolen vehicles before they are trashed by the perpetrators.
Imobolise fine dodgers’ vehicles until payment or arrangements are made.
Imobolise vehicles that are not registered or covered by third-party Insurance.
- World First- There is no evidence of any attempts elsewhere to achieve a similar initiative and the outcomes it offers.
Make Victoria a leader as an innovative State.
For many people, their car is their most important and valued asset, and to have it stolen is devastating. Unfortunately, motor cars, whether stolen or not, are also commonly associated with crimes including hit-run, robbery, drugs, rape, murder, domestic violence and now Terrorism.
The relatively new experience of motor vehicles being used as a weapon either against Police or as a weapon of mass destruction, terror-related or not, is a recent phenomenon. However, the introduction of this new level of violence In the West has brought a new urgency to the G-Tag.
The G-Tag, when fully implemented, is the only stratagem that will stop vehicles from being used as weapons.
The Bourke Street massacre should be justification alone for introducing the G-Tag. Unless you live under a rock, we know that it will only be a matter of time before we experience the devastation of truck or car bombs, as is all too common elsewhere in the world.
The multiple killings, countless injuries, millions of dollars of theft and massive damage is caused because current legislation is focused exclusively on the driver, not the vehicle. Until that changes, the vehicles available to drivers will continue to wreak havoc.
There were 4,567,314 vehicles (ABS Data and includes all vehicles) Registered in Victoria in 2015 – a huge and valuable state asset that needs to be protected.
The traditional view is the risks posed by the motor car should be managed by legislation focusing on the driver. Unfortunately, the success of this approach is problematic at best, with very limited success.
‘The best way to reduce any crime is to increase in the perpetrators’ mind the likelihood that they will get caught – penalties in themselves have limited impact because the perpetrator does not commit the act to get caught and never expects to get caught.
When the probability of being caught fails to dissuade, we need the ability to intervene to minimise the impact of the behaviour.
Authorities (Police) should be able to safely slow down or stop particular vehicles in the interests of public safety and/or law enforcement
Without diminishing the current Law and Order response, there is a need to think through and discuss alternatives – that alternative is the vehicle.
GPS tracking is widely used in the community; the devices record and re-transmit their own location to a satellite-based global positioning system. These re-transmitted signals allow the identification of the vehicle, its location, and the route it has and is taking. It also communicates the vehicle’s speed.
That route can be recorded for days or weeks and is capable of identifying which vehicle was driven in a particular location at a previous time. This ability will allow Police to identify the vehicle used in a crime. As important as the current location of the vehicle is, the historical routes the vehicle has taken perhaps have more investigative and evidentiary value.
An example, and there are many, would be a drive-by shooting in the early hours. Witnesses can usually supply the time of the shots; with a G-Tag, the Police could identify which vehicles were driven in that location at the time given.
Central to this proposal will be the fitting of tracking devices (G Tags) to every vehicle in the Victorian fleet.
Although this forms part of the first stage of this proposal, it needs to be seen through the prism of advantages to the community, safety and Crime Prevention/Minimisation strategy, albeit that an economic case may be produced for the system raising alternative revenue streams for the Government, a user pays system for registration. The latter is the most equitable method of raising revenue.
Setting the case for part one of this proposal – the G-Tag
The advantages of developing a GPS locating system, or G-Tag, for the entire Victorian road fleet will be no small feat; however, the return will be enormous.
- Theft of Motor vehicles and machinery –
With a G-Tag, stolen vehicles can be located quickly; the focus is on the property, not the perpetrator, which will serendipitously lead to perpetrators being detected rapidly. This will lead to a reduction in cost to insurers and reduce premiums for users.
This would also reduce the demand for Police time and assist in arresting perpetrators.
G-Tags will influence the perpetrators, knowing the chances of getting caught have escalated and may dissuade many would-be offenders.
In Australia, 49 vehicles are stolen and processed for scrap metal a week and one in four cars stolen are never recovered – $103 Million estimated value of cars never recovered. In addition, there are estimated to be 5 million cars on Australian roads that do not have immobilising technology. (Source -National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council.).
In Victoria, 14366 vehicle thefts were reported according to VicPol statistics – in 2014. In 2015 that number increased to 17090, an increase of 19%. The National average of vehicles not recovered is 31% (This figure could be substantially higher when including vehicles recovered damaged beyond repair – burnt out etc.), so extrapolating those figures to Victoria, over 5000 vehicles disappear every year, or nearly 100 every week.
What the statistics do not show is the hardship caused, and the danger posed to the community
- Community safety – a G-Tag will assist
- Victims of Domestic violence-. They can be better protected by tagging perpetrators’ vehicles in the G-Tag system to warn Police of the perpetrator heading toward the victim. In addition, using postcodes to quarantine victims will enable Police to intervene when postcode boundaries are crossed by perpetrators breaching a Family Violence Order—alerting Police to reduce the risk to the victim.
- Missing Persons-. G-Tags can locate vehicles of missing persons before self-harm. Suicidal victims are generally found after their demise when the family have contacted the Police over concerns, but Police driving around searching every nook and cranny has historically been demonstrated as ineffective and usually does not end in locating the individual before it is too late.
G-Tags will have the ability to save lives with the chance of getting professional help to desperate people.
- Rural application- The application in Rural and remote Victoria is very sound; consider being able to locate a tractor on a large remote property or a driver overdue to destinations, particularly in times of natural disaster. This will also reduce the number of unnecessary searches.
The applications of G-Tag technology can be extended to include watercraft and recreational vehicles.
- Technology instead of human resources. The thousands of man-hours expended by emergency services, particularly Police, can be dramatically reduced in multiple circumstances by the G-Tag Policing will become more efficient and effective, reducing pressure on Police resources.
- Criminal activity –
- Terrorism Investigations would have the advantage of monitoring vehicles with G-Tags without intrusion to better understand the risks posed by suspects.
The use of vehicles as a weapon in Terrorism is commonplace in the current war zones. It is likely to appear in Australia at some stage and being prepared will save lives.
- Criminal Behaviour –There is a current spate of home invasions where perpetrators physically confront victims in their homes by forced entry to gain access to keys to steal high-end motor vehicles. This type of activity (home invasion) is on the rise; there is a substantial risk of serious harm, if not the death of a victim. The ability to track these vehicles by G-Tag and immobilise them is very attractive to the victims and Police.
- Illicit Drugs must be transported in vehicles at some stage. Access to G-Tag technology will provide invaluable assistance in managing the importation and trafficking of drugs.
- Hoon drivers –can be monitored and removed from our roads. Known hoons’ vehicles can be tagged in the G-Tag system, and an alarm indicating when like tagged vehicles are identified by the system to be congregating can give Police the opportunity to intervene before the dangers escalate.
- Police Pursuits – This technology virtually eliminates the need for pursuits, and disabling the car by G-Tag reduces risk to the Community, the Police and even the offender.
- Emergency vehicles – can easily and reliably be located and managed when civil emergencies occur. E.g. incident managers could recognise the precise locations of fire appliances during bushfire outbreaks to direct them to where they are most needed – or away from impending danger.
- Arial surveillance – Currently undertaken by the Police Airwing, there are limitations with availability and response times. The G-Tag will not replace the need for Arial Surveillance as a Policing tool. Still, the G-Tag will significantly enhance the effectiveness of the Air Wing, reducing operating costs.
- Legal implications – The data recorded in the G-Tag system has evidentiary value, as do E-Tags and Security Cameras. The potential for the improved data available from G-Tags will provide data of strong evidentiary value for Prosecution and Defence in equal benefit, further improving our judicial system.
- Revenue streams
The advantage of this system is it would allow the Government to use this mechanism to charge registrations on a user-pay basis, the most equitable mechanism. In addition, implementing part two of this proposal would eliminate the need for enforcement of recalcitrant individuals by placing the vehicle in ‘limp home’ mode until the financial liabilities are met. This capacity could also be extended to other civil liabilities related to traffic, like unpaid fines
Setting the case for Part 2 of this proposal using G-Tag.
The first part of this proposal using converted E-Tag’s will only reach a percentage of the Victorian fleet unless a case can be presented for voluntary take-up of G-Tags based on the E-Tag system, although not totally limiting will reduce the overall potential of the program. However, the advantage of converting E-Tags to G-Tags will ensure a rapid introduction to the program.
Part 2 introduces more sophisticated G-Tags (technology is currently available) that are hard-wired into the vehicle’s electronics and fitted where they cannot be easily removed or interfered with. This technology adds a new layer where the vehicle’s electronics can be activated remotely to put the vehicle into a limp home mode (reducing its top speed to 80KPH) before activating the engine immobiliser to halt the vehicle. The only limitations will be that certain vehicles do not have the limp home mode and would be stopped at a safe place or shut down when stationary.
The upgraded G-Tags would need to be fitted to all new vehicles, pre-delivery (amending Vehicle Standards)and second-hand vehicles as part of the roadworthy process. In addition, a moratorium would be required to set a reasonable time that all vehicles must comply, similar to other safety initiatives, including seat belt introduction.
Stage 2 will allow the Police to intervene to stop the commission or continuance of a crime, which is the primary role of the Police.
The issue of re-establishing the vehicle’s functionality when recovered or is no longer a threat is again a technical issue that should not prove insurmountable. If it can be switched off, it can be switched back on; it is just a matter of protocols.
The cost debate
There is a cost, but as this is an innovation, the technology development costs of G-Tag would be well offset by marketing the initiative interstate and overseas. In addition, a fee for service arrangement, assisting set up and a fee for intellectual property would generate substantial income.
Part of the development costs could be covered by the Insurance Industry and TAC, who both stand to gain considerably. In addition, there would be nominal cost recovery from the users in installing a device into the existing fleet – manufacturers would be required to fit the device pre-delivery on all new vehicles.
An offset to the toll operator’s contribution (modifying E-Tags)will be the income generated when tracking devices are fitted to the Victorian fleet to include the E-Tag function in the G-Tag, effectively, the E-Tag would be redundant.
With savings achieved to the State economy, the overall cost will be well offset. In addition, recurring fees would be partly recovered by beneficiaries, namely Insurance companies, Toll operators, TAC and the user.
Car owners will have to bear some costs, subsidised for Welfare recipients, but the price should not be prohibitive, somewhere under $200.
The proposal to introduce a pay-as-you-use system for registration, third-party and comprehensive Insurance and fuel excise currently avoided by the increased uptake of Electric Vehicles will contribute to the setup and recurring cost of the system.
The system could, therefore, potentially protect innocent victims from financial hardship due to vehicle damage – Potentially, the initiative could be cost-positive.
Anybody who owns a smartphone or has a Satellite navigation device is acutely aware of the power and application of technology.
Currently advertised on the internet for $35 is a tracking device that can be attached to a vehicle and linked to a smartphone. The technology exists and is small and relatively cheap.
With the increasing sophistication of motor vehicles and their reliance on computers to manage their engines, an opportunity exists to intervene in a vehicle’s performance. A large part (and increasing) of the Victorian fleet are vehicles that have an inbuilt “Limp Home Mode” in their computer systems designed to protect the engine from further damage should a fault be detected
It is a matter of connecting the dots.
- If we can identify a vehicle using GPS locating technology by a G-Tag, we only need to develop a mechanism to access the vehicle’s computer via the G-Tag to activate the “Limp Home Mode” or the vehicle” Immobilisation technology”. A SIM card is the solution.
- By designing and fitting an aftermarket G-Tag to attach to the vehicle’s electronics, the vehicle’s function can be remotely managed.
- The power supply for the G-Tag is then secured for the vehicle’s life.
- The simplest method to communicate with vehicle electronics is by a SIM card in the device using the mobile network to communicate with the car’s computer.
The Issue of Privacy
In the 1980s, a very vocal minority saw themselves as the keepers of our privacy, objecting to installing the eight CCTV cameras for a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Melbourne many years ago. They vocalised the prying eyes and the abuse that would occur should the cameras not be removed immediately after the conference was finished- “It’s a Police State” was the group’s mantra.
Their plaintive cries are now somewhat humorous when we look around at the number of cameras that watch us daily, but there is no community concern as it has been demonstrated that they serve the greater good, and law-abiding citizens do not care if they are watched. Indeed, governments actively encourage more expansive use of CCTV in public places, and the take-up of private CCTV systems – including those monitoring public spaces – is impressive.
This initiative has a distinct advantage over CCTV cameras. The Cameras have a deterrent effect and assist with identifying perpetrators, but they cannot stop or prevent the continuation of a crime – the G-Tag can.
Anybody worried about the movement of their vehicle being monitored should realise there are over 5 million vehicles in Victoria, so nobody would have the time, the resources or the interest to monitor every vehicle – it will be enough just monitoring vehicles that are of particular interest- law-abiding citizens just hide in the crowd.
Furthermore, although not common knowledge, most high-end vehicles sold in recent years already have this technology and are used as part of the aftermarket service provided by the manufacturers as a mechanism to update electronics and identify the need for roadside assistance.
Effectively, a reasonable percentage of the population drives around oblivious that their movements are being or are capable of being monitored by a third party.
Impact on Judicial processes.
Implementing this system will provide the Judiciary with an alternative to sentencing offenders (by regulating vehicle use), particularly for the less serious traffic infringements and criminal activity in some cases.
Currently, lives are ruined financially and otherwise by fines and driving restrictions that cause offenders to lose employment and the capacity to pay fines.
Unintended double jeopardy can ruin many young people’s lives. Correcting bad behaviour by bad outcomes lessens, and, in certain circumstances, destroys the chance of future compliance. Instead, in desperation it can lead, particularly young people, towards crime and drugs to escape what they see as a hopeless situation from which they see no escape.
The G-Tag system can be used to manage the use of a vehicle to certain roads and/or times to allow Offenders to continue in employment, enabling them to pay the fines but still having their mobility curtailed to serve as a punishment.
We are not suggesting this facility become run-of-the-mill but for cases where a driver may exceed .05 after a reading shows residual alcohol or drugs in the low range. Or where breaches of Licence offences and registration matters can be managed without ruining lives.
The increase in penalty recovery would justify offenders retaining employment and avoid forcing people onto welfare and damaging the state’s productivity.
Recovery of Civil compliance fines could also be improved. For example, a vehicle disabled by G-Tag would rapidly encourage compliance.
There will need to be legislation that includes safeguards for privacy and safeguards against tampering with the system, either the physical equipment or any signal emitted.
The G-Tag is a proactive and novel proposal, but there is a myriad of far more radical ideas that once seemed farfetched that are now accepted as the mainstream norm, World Wide Web, television and the telephone!
We now accept security cameras as a way of life and the dreaded speed cameras as an acceptable inconvenience that serves the greater good.
It will take leadership and innovative thought to implement this proposal; however, the advantages to the community make it a worthwhile project.
This is an innovation that will save lives commensurate with its implementation,
- Minimise Police pursuits by number and duration.
- Enable the arrest of mobile criminals safely.
- Monitor criminal activity.
- Determine the identity of perpetrators when the crime was not witnessed, but a vehicle was involved (historical footage of the scene)
- Tag domestic violence perpetrators and protect victims with an electronic shield.
- Reducing a criminal’s ability to use a vehicle in committing a crime.
- Reducing criminals’ ability to burn stolen vehicles to hide DNA.
- Locate missing people intent on self-harm.
- Increase revenue through greater enforcement of civil compliance.
- Locate and save people in natural disasters.
- Reduce police resources in trying to locate missing persons.
“I have worked hard to own my car, and if it gets stolen, I would be very happy that it could be located and disabled as soon as it is reported (minimising damage to it). It would be a bonus that the low life that did it was caught…”
A view that the overwhelming majority of Victorians would share.
An additional attraction of this technology is that it will allow a user-pays system to be developed in lieu of registration and other taxes as a reliable and equitable mechanism to tax road users.
That Victoria Police and the Government establish a working party to prepare the business case for this proposal, including the fiscal imperatives that will make this proposal not only practical but cost-positive. An approach ANZPAA and Standards Australia should be considered as well as drafting legislation to establish a G-Tag Authority to develop the technology and design the model for the ongoing management and operation of the system.
Ivan W. Ray
Chief Executive Officer
Community Advocacy Alliance Inc