Case shows the darker side of black boxes

| 9/14/2004

If you’re worried about how black boxes in trucks could affect your privacy, here’s something to ponder: A man has been charged with violating California’s stalking laws after he allegedly used a Global Positioning System device to track and stalk his ex-girlfriend.

The incident was described in a report from the Glendale, CA, Police Department. According to police records, the suspect in the case attached a cell phone with a GPS chip in it to the bottom of his ex-girlfriend’s vehicle, which allowed him to track the car.

The device was placed on the vehicle in August, police said; officers have found documents that outline the victim’s movements from that time.

The girlfriend, who was not identified by police, had already been receiving up to 100 phone calls a day from the suspect. However, when she started running into her ex-boyfriend in person at different places, she became suspicious. She called police when she caught him under her car changing the cell phone battery.

Glendale Police arrested Ara Gabrielyan, 32, in connection with the case. He has been arraigned and charged with felony stalking, and is currently being held in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles on $500,000 bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 12 in Burbank Municipal Court.

Some proposals for placing black boxes in trucks have included the use of GPS devices for tracking loads, especially hazardous materials – an idea that has generated considerable opposition in the industry.

Sgt. Tom Lorenz – a spokesperson for the Glendale Police Department, which made the arrest in the case – said he was aware of the concerns some truckers have about the increased availability, and possible uses, of GPS devices.

“If they were to go pick up a load somewhere, and someone wanted to drop one of these tracking devices in one of the containers, or in one of the boxes or crates or whatever they’re picking up, that person who has you delivering that item is tracking you across the United States,” Lorenz said.

Lorenz said the device involved in the case links with an Internet mapping site,

“It puts your location on a map there so it’s very easy to read,” he said.

– by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor