Proposal would outlaw GPS tracking by private investigators

Proposal would outlaw GPS tracking by private investigators
Bill Ratcliff, owner of Cape Fear Investigative Services, wants lawmakers to exempt private investigators from a bill that would outlaw GPS tracking. (Source: WECT)
Bill Ratcliff, owner of Cape Fear Investigative Services, wants lawmakers to exempt private investigators from a bill that would outlaw GPS tracking. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Private investigators say they should be exempted from a proposal that would outlaw electronic tracking devices in North Carolina.

The measure (Senate Bill 238) passed the Senate in April and has been parked in the House Rules Committee since early this month.

An exemption for state-licensed private investigators was included in the initial bill but was removed in committee. The most recent version allows people to track cars they own. Exemptions are also included for law enforcement and parents of minor children.

Bill Ratcliff, owner of Cape Fear Investigative Services in Wilmington, says his company only uses GPS devices to track vehicles owned by its clients.

"For people who are in a horrible situation where there is a cheating spouse - it's their vehicle, it's a marital property vehicle - then they should be allowed to hire someone like us to go out and help them catch someone doing that," Ratcliff said.

He explained that tracking vehicles without the aid of GPS units would cost his clients and hurt his business. Catching someone having an affair averages about $2,500 with electronic tracking, Ratcliff said. Without GPS, it might cost a client between $4,000 and $6,000 to document the infidelity.

"GPS trackers will notify us if a vehicle leaves that we need to go and do a surveil on," he said. "So, it's a lot more economical for my clients instead of me having to use manpower to go out and do that."

Ratcliff said because GPS tracking devices are so easy to buy, he thinks the bill is needed to prevent criminal activity. But he wants lawmakers to allow private investigators to electronically track vehicles owned by their clients who sign contracts.

Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake), one of the bill's sponsors, said Wednesday that a change will be introduced in the House Rules committee that would allow private investigators to use GPS tracking to prevent crime, find stolen property and protect people from serious bodily harm or death.

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