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Motorists who leave their satellite navigation systems in their cars could be in for a blue Christmas this year as experts warn that thieves are using the machines to burgle their victim's home and clean them out of Xmas goodies completely.
Drivers who programme their home addresses into Sat Nav devices are most at risk as crooks are using the devices to steal more than the contents of the car. Instead of just taking personal possessions, thieves take the whole car and use the system to find their way to their victim's empty home where they know there could be richer pickings, especially at this time of year.
"If your car is broken into, particularly if you have an in-built Sat Nav as part of the dashboard, all the offenders have to do is search for 'home' or something similar and it will take them right to the door of your empty residence." said Roger Powell of mycarcheck.com. "If you save a setting, only ever put your town in to get you back to familiar territory.", he said.
Drivers are being urged to remove Sat Navs from their vehicles completely, instead of hiding them in the glove department or under the seat. Leaving the high-tech device lying around is akin to leaving £200 on your dashboard, so it’s little wonder thefts are soaring all over the country.
In London alone most recent figures show that Sat Nav theft has more than doubled in the last two years. Between April 2004 and March 2005 4,345 systems were stolen but for the same period between 2006 and 2007 11,043 Sat Navs were stolen.
Police north of the border have recently unveiled plans for high-profile patrols of inner city car parks in a bid to put the brakes on the Christmas car crime menace.
"At this time of year, thieves are well aware that people are out and about Christmas shopping and there is an increase in the possibility that people will have expensive goods in their car." said Sarah Craig, a spokesperson for Tayside Police.
"The increased patrols should act as a deterrent but we want to raise awareness as well. People with Sat Navs should be especially careful as there's been a constant increase in the numbers being nicked across the whole country."
"You should remove the terminal from your windscreen and either put it in your glove box or preferably take it with you. We're finding that thieves are noticing the rubber suction marks where the Sat Nav normally sits."
"Then they break in to have a look in the glove box. So the best thing to do is to physically remove it or at least give your windscreen a little wipe to remove the tell-tale signs."
While Sat Nav theft is on the rise there’s still plenty of competition for the attention of the sticky fingered according to research carried out by mycarcheck.com. Three sewing machines, leather shorts and even £10,000 in cash are just some of the bizarre items people have claimed as stolen from their cars according to insurance claims made in the last few months.
Items including: CDs, sunglasses, mobile phones, handbags, coats, golf clubs, MP3 players, sports kits, and jewellery figure alongside cowboy boots, fluffy dice, an entire team's football kits, a library card, a packet of sandwiches and £10,000 in cash.
"The winter months are the most common time of year for theft claims," said Roger Powell, General Manager of mycarcheck.com. "Unfortunately many victims of car crime are left disappointed when they try to claim for their stolen items. Most insurers only provide cover up to £100 for personal effects on items other than car stereos.
Despite this many motorists frequently leave much more valuable goods in their cars." he said.