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One NASA engineer came up with a unique solution to car thefts: glitter bombs


When the car of Mark Rober got broken into in San Francisco, he was mad...


MARK ROBER: I'm missing a window. Not cool, San Francisco. Not cool.

SIMON: ...And vowed retribution. The inventor, YouTuber and former NASA engineer and his team rigged a high-tech glitter fart bomb. Rober has resorted to glitter bombs before. He rigged some fake packages with cameras and glitter bombs to get revenge on parcel thieves. But, whew, did he step it up this time. Rober and his friend set up a decoy car with cameras and placed backpacks, suitcases outfitted with cameras, tracking devices and pressurized canisters loaded with biodegradable glitter and a powerfully stinky spray that deployed shortly after the bags were stolen.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I smell it now.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Me too. I'm smelling something.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I claim whatever, though.

SIMON: Did you catch that? One of the thieves took the rap for the stink. Once the gassy glitter bombs went off, thieves ditched the bags.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Gagging sound).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Toss it. Toss it.

AUTOMATED VOICE: Five, four, three, two...


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Gagging sound).


SIMON: But sometimes they took the laptop from inside the bag - tracker and all - which gave Mark Rober a lot of data. He wanted to know who's behind the growing number of the car break-ins in San Francisco and where all the stolen goods wind up. He learned that most of the break-ins weren't carried out by armed organized gangs, but individuals, often on foot or bike. Thieves who had their own cars often had stolen plates or none at all. And much of what gets stolen was sold for quick cash in street markets. So if you like the look of a secondhand laptop in San Francisco, but it's stinky, consider the source.

(SOUNDBITE OF LEMON JELLY SONG, "PAGE ONE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.