by on February 8, 2013

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Last night as I was trying to fall asleep, there was a car alarm going off for at least half an hour. I don’t know if it stopped or I fell asleep first, but I’m now convinced that car alarms cost society more in annoyance than they benefit it through prevented thefts. Why can’t there be a theft deterrent that creates positive externalities? Oh, wait, there is. It’s called LoJack. They’re a Canton, MA based company that offers “recovery systems for cars, trucks, motorcycles, equipment, cargo, and laptops.” LoJack is based on radio transmitters that are activated when something is reported stolen (I assumed they used GPS, but here’s how it works). Police are able to find the frequency through special hardware, and recover it (and hopefully arrest the thieves at the same time). LoJack not only helps customers get their things back, but it also increases the overall risk of stealing stuff–that makes us all better off, even if we don’t use LoJack.

The Lo Down

There were nearly three quarters of a million auto thefts in 2011. I had no idea that it was that bad. The national recovery rate is only 52%. Cars with LoJack have a recovery rate over 90%. That’s pretty great evidence that the product works. While LoJack’s technology isn’t nearly as impressive as it used to be considering that we now have smartphones with features like Find My Phone, you can’t argue with the success. From a business standpoint I like that LoJack isn’t just about personal automobiles–they also serve fleets and shippers (totally makes me think of The Wire). Additionally, they’ve licensed their name to a software company that develops a laptop recovery application (and it has helped recover more than 25,000 laptops). Unfortunately LoJack hasn’t been able to recover the economy yet, but they do have a few positions posted on their Jobs page including an Engineering Internship that may or may not be paid.

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