Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Alarm alert - Vehicle security expert says systems inadequate

Published:Sunday | July 24, 2016 | 7:25 AMMel Cooke
Ottis Dillon (right), operations manager at Diplomat Tracking Solutions Ltd, and supervisor Somaya Oates, in teh company's recently opened monitoring centre.
Evon Vassell, a director of Diplomat Tracking Solutions Ltd, and operations manager Ottis Dillon.
One of a number of stolen Toyota Rav-4 SUVs which were found scrapped in St Catherine last year.
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Evon Vassell of Diplomat Tracking Solutions Ltd has little comfort for motorists using one – or both – of the most popular methods of thwarting motor vehicle thieves. He dismisses car alarms and kill switches (which cut the supply of fuel to the engine if not pressed within a specified time of the engine being started) as ineffective at best.

He points out that the practised, persistent thief will always find the kill switch, because it has to be in a position where it can be easily accessed by the driver. “The professional thief will know everywhere likely to put a kill switch,” he said. As for the alarm, Vassell says someone with knowledge of electronics can go to a store, get a replacement controller and stand outside a vehicle and programme it to gain access.

“The kill switch and alarms are a waste of time,” he said.

While there are other methods to protect the vehicle from theft, Vassell emphasises the value of tracking, which is what the company he operates along with co-directors Shellon Leebert and Daniel Gassop does. The objective is to prevent the vehicle from being from where the legitimate driver left it to a spot where it can be stripped and searched for any more protective devices, as well as begin to be dismantled for parts to be sold.

This awareness of the limitations of alarms and kill switches seems to be spreading, as Vassell said “once someone buys a new car they want to see what security they can get”, this need leading some persons to his businessplace. He said that even if someone cannot afford the tracking (which has a monthly fee), they are introduced to alternatives.

Still, Vassell is a man with vehicle tracking in his blood and he rattles off a few advantages of Diplomat’s service. The system updates every 10 seconds and so tracking is done in real time. Tracking is done all across Jamaica and the vehicle can be shut down remotely. Some packages are sensitive to vibration, so there is a signal if someone tries to open the bonnet or the doors.

So far he can point to a 100 per cent vehicle recovery rate, one of the more recent taking place two Fridays ago. It was the ninth motor vehicle recovered by Diplomat this year and it took place around the same time an expanded monitoring room was being pressed into service at Diplomat's Molynes Road, St Andrew, headquarters. 

Vehicles – including motorcycles - are monitored around the clock and the system comes with a smartphone app which is used for communication between the company and client, as well as by the vehicle’s owner to monitor it and set parameters. This works especially well for those who have drivers who should be on prescribed routes and Vassell says another use of tracking is to set a speed limit that cannot be exceeded without an alert being sent to the owner.

Special attention is paid to rental vehicles, Vassell saying messages are sent to those clients twice each night to tell them where the car is. “During the night, about 1 a.m – 4 a.m. is when most things happen,” he said.

Vassell said the vehicles which are being stolen most often are the Toyota Axio, Nissan Tiida, Toyota Fielder, Toyota Noah, Mazda Demio, Honda Accord, Honda Fit, Toyota Vitz, Toyota Mark X, Toyota Wish and Mazda Premacy.

Before there was Diplomat Tracking Solutions Ltd there was Diplomat Security, which was set up in Jamaica in 2002. That business closed in 2006 and the principals started operating in Florida a year later. “I was enthusiastic about security. I was a policeman for about 18 years,” he said. In Florida they worked closely with car dealers and it was there that Vassell caught on to vehicle tracking technology.

Diplomat Tracking Solutions has been operating in Jamaica since 2011 and there is a similarity with the Florida operation as Vassell said “we work with the major car marts in Jamaica.”