Nativity scene thefts are on the rise year after year, but a security firm aims to provide a high-tech solution for target churches at no cost.
New York-based Brickhouse Security, makers of the Airbnb-specific home security system, is offering free GPS trackers for any church to install in the often-stolen Baby Jesus figure in the traditional Nativity scene during Christmas.
"At some point, almost every church that has a nativity scene has a problem," BrickHouse Security CEO Todd Morris told tech news site Betabeat. "How do you explain to kids showing up for Sunday School that someone stole Baby Jesus?"
Brickhouse has already been renting the GPS trackers to affected churches for a few years now, but the demand for the free loaner device has increased in recent years. The security company normally deals with major events like the Indianapolis 500 or shuttle tracking at the Olympics, but the small tracking devices usually sit un-used during the off-peak winter months.
The tracker, called the Spark Nano, is affixed into the hollow Baby Jesus figure and automatically "wakes up" when movement is sensed near the manger. From there, a text alert is sent to church staff to let them know that motion has been detected, and another text alert is sent if the Baby Jesus is on the move.
The stolen doll can then be tracked on a digital map, where the police would step in to find the stolen merchandise. But some small-town ministers are reluctant to go inform the law, instead opting to pay a visit to who is most likely a harmless prankster or teenager fulfilling a bet.
"We had one pastor who saw the dot on the map and knew whose house it was and what teenager lived there," Mr. Morris said. "When the parents opened the door, he just said 'I'm here for Baby Jesus.'"
Brickhouse recently contacted the Indiana Masonic Home after reading a story about the theft of the Baby Jesus on December 7 from the Indianapolis-area retirement home. Jerry Loper, facilities director for the retirement community, said that the two-foot-long figure was purchased in 2003 for $475, but would cost around $1,000 to replace today.
The 100-year-old retirement community takes great pride in its Christmas Nativity scene each year, and the theft was a burden to the residents.
"It's a nice gesture on (BrickHouse's) part," Loper said. "We want to thank this company for stepping up and (The Indianapolis Star) for making that connection."
The Spark Nano ordinarily retails for $129.95 and is advertised on the company's website to be tracked via smartphone, tablet, or PC. "Smaller than a cell phone, the Spark Nano GPS tracking device is ideal for small business owners, spouses, parents, and anyone else who needs to keep track of what they value most," the product description reads. "Loaded with features, this battery-powered GPS tracker gives you real-time location viewing from the comfort of your computer, tablet or smartphone; and there are no expensive apps to download. The Spark Nano's fully rechargeable battery can run for two weeks or more under normal use (~1 hour a day), and with motion-activated tracking, you won't waste any battery life when your target isn't moving. This GPS tracking device's weather-resistant body makes it more versatile than comparable trackers."