D.C. police handing out Apple AirTags to combat rise in car theft

A new program aims to equip D.C. drivers with tools to safeguard their vehicles and help police recover the stolen property.
Apple airtag
(Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Metropolitan Police Department last week announced a new initiative to distribute free Apple AirTags to drivers in selected police service areas in an effort to combat the rise in car thefts, up 101% since this time last year, according to D.C. police data.

The pilot program aims to help police locate and recover stolen vehicles and hold theives accountable.

“We have had success with similar programs where we make it easier for the community and MPD to work together, from our Private Security Camera Incentive Program to the wheel lock distribution program, and we will continue to use all the tools we have, and add new tools, to keep our city safe,” Bowser said in a press release announcing the program.

Residents who live in the district’s Navy Yard, Edgewood, Union Market, Benning Road, Fort Dupont and Hillcrest can claim free AirTags Nov. 7-9 at distribution events in those neighborhoods. D.C. police officers will help people hide the tags in their vehicles, the release said.


Apple’s tracking devices have been used to aid stalkers, prompting the Silicon Valley company to advise consumers to prevent such actions. But Bowser said the devices can also be used to locate stolen vehicles.

“What we know is individuals that are involved in this type of criminal activity often commit multiple offenses, and a single arrest can help bring closure to multiple cases,” Bowser remarked during a press conference last week.

Washington D.C. isn’t the first city to use Apple’s tracking device to fight car theft. New York Mayor Eric Adams and the New York Police Department in May announced a program to hand out 500 AirTags to residents who lived in neighborhoods that had seen a 548% increase in stolen Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

Pamela Smith, acting police chief of the district’s Metropolitan Police Department, did not specify how many AirTags the city will distribute, but said during the press conference that AirTags had already helped her department recover several vehicles.

D.C.’s AirTag initiative follows a series of recent theft-prevention measures, including the police department’s expanded wheel-lock distribution program over the summer to upgrade more than 1,100 vehicles with new anti-theft software. The city also launched a dash cam distribution program for local rideshare and delivery drivers.

Sophia Fox-Sowell

Written by Sophia Fox-Sowell

Sophia Fox-Sowell reports on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and government regulation for StateScoop. She was previously a multimedia producer for CNET, where her coverage focused on private sector innovation in food production, climate change and space through podcasts and video content. She earned her bachelor’s in anthropology at Wagner College and master’s in media innovation from Northeastern University.

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