The GPS crime wave

GPS in Zipcar

The AP reports on the rising GPS crime wave. With GPS units falling to a price where many cars have them, it’s led to an easy target for criminals looking to make off with a quick $100-$200.

In Maryland‘s Montgomery County, outside Washington, D.C., 620 portable navigation devices were filched from cars through Aug. 31, blowing past the 189 taken in all of 2006. In downtown Philadelphia, GPS thefts jumped to 88 in the first eight months of the year from 33 in the same period of 2006. …

Even people who take their GPS gadgets off their dashboards when they leave their cars are returning to find windows smashed, as thieves gamble that an empty plastic cradle suction-cupped to the windshield means a GPS unit has been hidden somewhere in the car. …

It gets worse: Taking the plastic cradle off the windshield might not be enough if the suction cup leaves a ring of film on the glass. That alone can signal a thief.

That’s why police in Montgomery County, Md., handed out 1,200 microfiber cloths at a fair last month and told motorists to clear suction-cup rings. Cops in Alexandria, Va., advise using moist towelettes

The prevalence of GPS units makes committing a series of burglaries easy. I found this in the Arlington police blotter:

LARCENY FROM AUTO (SERIES) 06/24/07, 800 block of S. Army Navy Dr. Between 0945 hrs and 1905 hrs on 06/24/07, someone broke into five vehicles in a parking garage. Portable GPS systems were taken from four of the vehicles and a duffel bag containing various items was taken from the other.

Beyond losing the GPS, you also have to deal with the cost and hassle of replacing a broken window.

That’s one clear advantage of factory installed GPS units: they’re harder to take. And if they’re taken, they’re usually covered by insurance, while portable units are not. But that’s probably not worth paying 10x as much.

What’s likely to end this crime spree? My guess is that it’ll only end when GPS units get so cheap and ubiquitous that they’re not worth stealing.

About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is an analyst focused on the intersection of local, social and mobile. He is a principal analyst at reDesign mobile. Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He blogs at http://blog.agrawals.org and tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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One Response to The GPS crime wave

  1. It’s really worth the small time and effort it takes to put away your GPS before leaving your vehicle, for sure! Having to replace both your windshield and GPS is way more time consuming,not to mention spendy.

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