Multi-force success story after stolen vehicles returned to owner with the use of What3Words
11 Sep | 11:50

Officers from Northumbria and Durham have been able to recover two vans towing diggers thanks to the use of trackers and the What3Words app.

What3Words is a simple worldwide tool used to communicate precise location. The system breaks down the world geographically into 3m squares and then those individual squares each have a unique three word address that will never change.

Emergency services and partners across the world are beginning to use What3Words to help with investigations such as locating missing people, helping those lost and injured and recovering stolen items – and this week officers used the tool to do just that thanks to the use of trackers.

The two Mercedes Sprinter vans, which were both fitted with tracking devices, were towing mini diggers and were taken from the Durham area in the early hours of last Thursday (August 30).

Officers from both Durham Constabulary and Northumbria Police were alerted and worked together to track down the vehicles, one of which was located in Sunderland and the other in Morpeth.

Both have now been returned to their rightful owners.

Neighbourhood Sergeant Alan Bogle, from Northumbria Police, said: “Tracking devices are an incredibly useful tool against theft and are highly recommended by officers, they have proved vital time and time again in tracking down stolen items.

“Then with the addition of What3Words it is becoming easier to quickly communicate a precise location once it has been identified - especially in our more rural areas where not all roads are named or fields and parks can go on for miles.

“With What3Words you can share locations between other users, or if calling an incident into us you can inform our communications staff of the three words to help us locate the incident quicker and more accurately.

“It provides a great platform for partnership working and adds another police tactic to help victims and brings offenders before the court.

“Both tracking devices and What3Words have huge benefits for emergency services and this case shows just how useful they can be.”

Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of What3Words, said, ‘Being in need of urgent help and not being able to easily describe where you are can be very distressing for the person involved and a really difficult situation for emergency services.

“We encourage everyone to download the app to make sure they are ready to quickly share accurate location information, should the worst happen. It’s free, it’s simple to use, and one day it might make sure you get the help you need, when you need it. It’s been incredible to see UK police forces like Northumbria Police and Durham Constabulary embrace technology to respond effectively and quickly to people in need.”

Further information can be found at or you can download the free app directly onto your smartphone.


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