Sat Nav smash and grabs makes thieves millions

The black market for stolen SatNavs has topped £13 million reveals new research from Autoglass. The windscreen repair and replacement company says that SatNavs stolen from vehicles, over 260,000 in 2005, are being sold for as little as £50, providing substantial salaries for smash and grab thieves. It would take just 280 stolen SatNavs to generate an income of £14,000 per year.

The Autoglass® thirteenth annual Cracking Car Crime survey highlights a growing epidemic of the theft of gadgets from cars. One in seven of those questioned in the national poll had recently been a victim of car crime. Some 41% of those said that gadgets including SatNavs, laptops, stereos, mp3 players and mobile phones had been taken - that's double the amount compared to last year.

And while thieves prosper, it's the motorist that pays the price. The research shows that a typical break-in is costing UK drivers an average of £646 - up 13% from last year's figure. Only 37% of those questioned said that they claimed on their insurance, which means that motorists are picking up a personal crime bill of £215 million.

Reformed car thief Richard Taylor is an associate pastor at the Renewal Christian Centre in Birmingham and a presenter on BBC's 'To Catch a Thief'. He said: "Ten years ago, I would be stealing car stereos and maybe a few tapes, which would probably fetch around £30-£35 on the street. Now car thieves can easily make £100 in a quick smash and grab.

"Car thieves are opportunists, but they're also smart. SatNavs are easy money and a cradle left on display on the dashboard, or even the sucker marks left on the windscreen, hint that there might be one hidden inside and a car thief will think nothing of breaking in to search. And even if there isn't a SatNav left in the vehicle, they will grab whatever they find of value. Some might just take the cradle to match SatNav units stolen from elsewhere."

With darker evenings bringing a rise in attacks on cars, Autoglass® is urging motorists to remember to remove all valuables when they leave their vehicles.

Nigel Doggett, managing director of Autoglass® said: "Worryingly, our research shows that 15% of vehicle owners leave their valuables in full view and 28% think that hiding things under the seats or in the door pockets is a good enough deterrent. One third of SatNav owners also admit to leaving the cradle on display, while one in ten simply leave the system in place when they park. This is effectively offering an open invitation for thieves to strike.

"At Autoglass® we've replaced 14% more side windows during Jan-Sep 2006 compared to the same period last year which is indicative of the rise in smash and grab incidents in the UK. And while break-ins are nothing new, the high priced gadgets available today are proving too much of a temptation for thieves looking to make a quick fifty pounds.

"The only way to prevent a break in is to remove all trace of the equipment from the vehicle - and that includes the sucker marks."

The Autoglass® advice is backed by Essex Police Force, which like most forces in the UK, has made the issue of SatNav theft a top priority. Tony Ellis, a Crime Prevention Officer at Essex Police Force, says: "SatNav theft is a growing problem nationally and is one that we are working hard to combat. We would urge motorists to be extra vigilant and remove all of their equipment - including the carry case - when their car is left unattended. In addition, we ask that owners mark their kit with a security marker, so that if it is stolen, it can be returned or disabled if necessary".

Autoglass® is also working with the Association of Chief Police Officers to help reduce incidents of theft from cars across the country. The two organisations have linked together to provide top tips for motorists to help them avoid being a victim of car crime. Advice leaflets are available from Police Forces across the country, through Autoglass® branches and on the web at www.autoglass.co.uk.

Autoglass® is committed to keeping motorists, their cars and belongings safe. Its annual car crime study is now into its thirteenth year and its long-standing 'Cracking Car Crime' campaign unites motorists, police forces and local authorities around the country in the battle to beat car crime.