Willie James Clark and Brian Vega Salinas were arrested on suspicion of burglary after allegedly taking a bottle of cough syrup equipped with a GPS tracker from a Tustin, Calif., pharmacy.
Tustin, Calif., Police Department

Two men suspected of a series of pharmacy burglaries this year were recently caught by police after allegedly stealing a bottle of cough syrup that had a GPS tracker inside it.

Police in Tustin, Calif., had been trying to figure out who was behind a half-dozen pharmacy burglaries this year. Lt. Robert Wright of the Tustin Police Department told the Los Angeles Times that before the tracker was planted in a bottle of cough syrup, a crime analyst with the department examined the days, times and neighborhoods where pharmacy burglaries had occurred for possible patterns. They determined that Creative Compounding Pharmacy in Tustin would be a likely target.

“It’s pretty much like a guess,” Wright said.

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That guess paid off.

After getting permission from the pharmacy’s owner, Denise Taylor, police planted the tracker, which functions like the Find My iPhone app, in a bottle of cough syrup. The bottle sat on the shelf for several months before it was grabbed in a burglary Nov. 10.

The tracker began to work after the bottle was removed from the pharmacy, and it began tracking the thieves’ every move.

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Investigators arrested Willie James Clark, 21, and Brian Vega Salinas, 20, on suspicion of committing the burglary last month after days of tracking, undercover surveillance and evidence gathering.

“It paid off,” Taylor said. Her pharmacy was previously burglarized in 2012, just a year after she opened. The thieves in that case were never apprehended, even though they were captured on video surveillance.

The Times reports that this is the first time Tustin police successfully used a tracking device in pharmaceuticals, but the technology has been used on bicycles, delivery packages and one automobile. More than 100 suspected thieves have been caught through the department’s use of GPS devices.

“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. “We will continue using this technology as we want every criminal who is considering stealing something in our city to wonder if a GPS device is hidden inside.”

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Read more at the Los Angeles Times.