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Vehicle theft foiled by GPS system, police

A car thief picked the wrong car to steal --he was trailed by an onboard GPS tracker, a police official said.

An OnStar tracking system led the Albany Police Department to a 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche abandoned in a yard on Phillips Drive after it was stolen at a convenience store on the 2800 block of Dawson Road, said APD spokeswoman Phyllis Banks.

"The driver jumped out of the car and ran to a wooded area behind a home on Phillips Drive," Banks said. "There police caught Timothy Kelly, 36. He is charged with motor-vehicle theft."

Kelly is in the Dougherty County Jail, a jail spokeswoman said. No bail had been set Tuesday night, she added.

Paul Senkbeil, 37, parked the Chevrolet Avalanche at the Dawson Road Shell station at about 8:30 a.m. to make a purchase from the convenience store, Banks said. When he got out of the store, the truck was gone.

Officials did not say if Senkbeil called police first or the OnStar company. It wouldn't matter, an OnStar representative said.

The way the company's system works in cooperation with police departments is seamless no matter who gets the call first, said Cristi Vazquez, company communications manager.

Once a call goes through to OnStar, its staff tracks the vehicle and reports its position to police, Vazquez said. Select vehicle models from 2009 on have other options such as an ignition turn-off in addition to the tracking.

Models before that are tracked and locations reported to police, Vazquez said.

"We work directly with police once we have the report," she said. "We tell them where the vehicle is, and they can pick it up."

It was not immediately reported how long it took from report to recovery, but Kelly was booked in jail by 11:55 a.m. a jail spokeswoman said.

Without referring to this specific theft, Banks emphasized that drivers should always lock their cars if they get out of them.

"No matter where you are," she said, "lock the car."