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A Buzz Lightyear action figure was used last month to capture a thief outside Atlanta, Georgia.

The Buzz Lightyear doll, with a hidden GPS transmitter, was placed inside a bag of used clothing in a collection bin operated by Mid-Atlantic Clothing Recycling (MAC Recycling) of Owings Mills, Maryland. The collection bin being monitored was at the Douglas Marketplace in Douglasville, Georgia just west of Atlanta.

“We have experienced a recent rash of thefts from our collection bins,” said Max Glikman, operations manager of MAC Recycling. “In some cases our collections were down as much as 40 percent at specific locations. The team at MAC Recycling came up with the idea of using a GPS device to track materials once they were taken illegally from one of the company’s collection bins.”

Tim Peck, Atlanta territory manager for MAC Recycling recently hid one of the companies 90 GPS monitors in a Buzz Lightyear stuffed toy along with other items of used clothing. An online tracking system allows Peck, and other MAC Recycling managers to remotely monitor the “seed” materials. Yesterday, Peck was alerted that Buzz Lightyear was on-the-move. Peck immediately contacted police to report a “theft in progress.”

“We have found law enforcement officials to be very appreciative of our efforts with the GPS devices,” said Glikman. “While we can’t identify the make and model of the vehicle transporting the stolen items, we can direct the police to within a few feet of the GPS tracker.”

Following the directions of Peck, Douglas County police located the stolen property and observed a suspect unloading the materials from the back of a pick-up truck. The officers used a directional finder to sweep the property and found Buzz Lightyear and the GPS device inside the suspect’s house. The man confessed to stealing a total of six large bags of clothing. He was arrested and taken to jail.

Glikman said the company has used the trackers in five other cases. Most cases involved individuals removing items from MAC Recycling clothing collection bins, although in one case a competitor was caught with the stolen goods.

Published in the August 2014 Edition of American Recycler News