A suspected car thief taken into custody Tuesday morning was listening to officers' own scanner transmissions at the time of his arrest, Anchorage police said.
Officers first spotted the silver Chevrolet Malibu -- which had been reported stolen by a car rental agency on Jan. 19, when it wasn't returned -- on Strawberry Road at about 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to Anchorage police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro.
"Additional units responded and pulled the vehicle over near Minnesota (Drive) and Tudor Road," Castro wrote in a Thursday statement on the case. "The vehicle had one occupant, the driver, who was identified as 21-year-old Joel Gould."
Gould, who allegedly had methamphetamine with him, was arrested on charges of first-degree vehicle theft and fourth-degree misconduct involving controlled substances. Police also found another surprise in the vehicle when an officer got behind the wheel to move the car out of the roadway.
"As the officer was moving the vehicle, he could hear APD's scanner traffic being broadcast from the car speakers," Castro wrote. "A cellphone was plugged into the vehicle speaker system and the call that was being broadcast in the vehicle was the one for this stolen vehicle response following the public scanner delay."
Castro didn't have numbers on how frequently officers in Anchorage encounter criminals listening to police scanners -- with an online feed of Anchorage police traffic available free of charge to the public and the media -- but said it's something officers have already seen.
"We've experienced that situation before, so we know that this is a possibility when we put our scanner traffic out there publicly," Castro said.
On Jan. 12, Anchorage police temporarily disabled their online scanner for more than a week as police responded to a wave of armed robberies across town. APD announced the restoration of service on Twitter nine days later.
The Anchorage Police Department has resumed the public streaming of its scanner traffic on Broadcastify. https://t.co/6fduQjFbWQ APD Public Info. (@APDInfo) January 21, 2016
Castro confirmed that the department's online scanner broadcasts traffic on a delay to deter its real-time use by criminals, but wouldn't say how long that delay was Thursday.
"That's a tactical thing," Castro said. "We've tried to delay the scanner enough to give ourselves time to get to the initial report and respond to it."
In Tuesday's case, that scanner delay became a key factor in Gould's arrest.
"It was literally one of those timing-is-everything moments," Castro said. "Luckily, the suspect was apprehended before he heard the call that we were ready to apprehend him in response to this stolen vehicle."
Castro said Gould, who was taken to the Anchorage jail, didn't have any apparent links to other vehicles taken during a recent wave of car thefts across town. The Malibu was returned to its rental agency.