Car insurance app helps San Francisco police nab car thieves

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- High-tech insurance start-up Metromile is getting credit for fighting crime in a way that surprised even the company. In fact, one customer told KTVU he felt the start-up went the extra "metromile" for him.

KTVU first reported on San Francisco-based Metromile when it launched California service last July. Drivers simply plug a small, free device into their car's onboard computer port and pay for your car insurance based on the actual miles you drive.

The device monitors not only mileage, but the location of the car.

Two days ago, Metromile customer Ryan Hartigan learned of an unexpected benefit.

"I wake up Wednesday morning and my partner goes outside to get in the car and go to work and he came back inside and he said, 'The car is gone,'" said Hartigan.

He opened up his Metromile app on his smartphone and looked for his car's whereabouts.

"And I see that the car is, in fact, not in Noe Valley, where we live, but in Bayview," said Hartigan. He then called the police department and gave officers the location of the car.

Unfortunately, the car started moving around, making it hard for the police to find.

So Hartigan called Metromile and worked with customer service agent Alex Bozman, who looked up his car on her system.

"Ours was just a little bit faster, so I was able to look it up and get them the real time updates on where the car was at," said Bozman. She kept passing that information along to the police car.

"I watched them zigzag around the Bayview area and finally noticed that they had stopped for a while," said Bozman.

Eventually, the work all paid off.

"The cops pulled into a dead end street in Bayview, and they found our car with the two suspects inside. And that car was parked next to another car that was stolen." said Hartigan.

After arresting the two suspects, the police called the other owner to pick up her stolen car as well.

"The officers were cheering. Actually Alex, she was cheering and we were all "high fiving" and back patting. It was a fun moment," said Hartigan.

"It was really exciting to hear that we had helped crack something even bigger than just on stole, car. That was great," said Bozman.

After the police removed the suspects and their drug paraphernalia, both victims were able to get their cars back undamaged.