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Police put GPS tracker in cough syrup, catch alleged burglars

Commentary: California police are concerned about a series of burglaries at pharmacies. So they take technological action.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Watch out. It could have bugs in it.

UIG via Getty Images

The bottle of cough syrup had sat on the pharmacy shelf for months.

For some reason, no one had bought it. Until, police say, two men grabbed it and allegedly made off with it.

As the LA Times, reports, the interestingly named Creative Compounding Pharmacy was burgled on November 10.

This particular bottle of cough syrup, though, could help your coughing and cough up your whereabouts. It was equipped with a GPS tracker.

Police had randomly inserted it into this bottle -- with the pharmacy owner's permission -- after a series of pharmacy burglaries in the area.

So it was that after following the bottle for some time, the police arrested Willie James Clark, 21, and Brian Vega Salinas, 20, and charged them with being the burglars.

It's unclear why the police chose that particular cough syrup bottle or why the alleged burglars chose to take it.

The Tustin Police Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. It's possible that the alleged burglars targeted cough syrup because it's often used as an ingredient in so-called sizzurp -- cough syrup mixed with a soda such as Mountain Dew and a Jolly Rancher that gives a certain narcotic effect.

The department did tell the LA Times that this is the first time such a device has brought successful results when slipped into a pharmaceutical.

Police all over the US have used GPS trackers for some time on a variety of vulnerable objects -- anything from bikes to boxes of Air Jordans. They've even been known to fire GPS tracking "bullets" at cars during high-speed chases.

"The technology allows us to secrete the system in a variety of items and is only limited by our imagination," the Tustin Police Department said in a statement quoted by the LA Times.

However, the cost and the sheer randomness of the object into which it's inserted means that success rates might not always be high.

Still, the next time a burglar decides to lift an object from a store, they might think twice about whether it's got bugs in it.