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September 23, 2007

GPS Theft On The Rise - Windshield Mounts Tip Off Thieves

Grand Theft Auto

GPS devices are now the number one item being stolen from motor vehicles. Think storing your spanking new GPS in the glove compartment keeps you safe from smash-and-grab thieves? Think again: according to a recent study, GPS theft is on the rise, and crooks have learned that a suction-cup windshield mount usually means a valuable GPS hidden somewhere in the car.

What can you do to keep GPS-loving thieves at bay? Read on.

With the average price of a GPS falling somewhere between $180 and $1000, it's little surprise that GPS theft is on the rise. Even though many people may hide their GPS devices when they park their car, they usually don’t bother to take down the mount from the windshield or dash. That's good news for thieves, who are increasingly taking notice of GPS devices, given their small size and ease with which they can be re-sold on eBay the black market. These are essentially high-end items that bring in quick cash.

Even taking the extra step of removing the windshield mount may not be sufficient, as the tell-tale mark of the suction cup on the windshield glass is enough to tip off would-be robbers.

From San Francisco to Boston, Australia to Britain, police are reporting a rise in theft of GPS devices. In Montgomery County, Maryland, there have been 620 portable navigation devices snatched from cars this year alone. There were only 189 total thefts in 2006 - that's a 328 percent increase in just 12 months. Already this year there have been 32 in my town (Roseville, CA) alone, compared to just 16 last year.

Some tips for avoiding your beloved GPS from being snatched:

  • Consider using a friction mount instead of the suction-cup windshield mount most GPS devices ship with. Friction mounts rest on the dashboard instead being attached to the glass, and can be easily hidden under the seat when the car is parked. Plus, there's no revealing ring on the windshield to tip off thieves.
  • If you do use a windshield mount, remove it when parking the car and wipe off the suction cup smudge.
  • Write down the serial number of your GPS and register it with the manufacturer. That way, if it ever goes missing you can prove the unit was yours. That said, TomTom North America President Jocelyn Vigreux says that while the company keeps a record of stolen unit’s serial numbers, not a lot of thieves send their freshly stolen units in for repair.
  • If your GPS includes a lock/password feature, use it. These simple passwords / PIN combinations are easily cracked within a day or two, but you might as well make things as difficult as possible for the criminals!

There's nothing worse than the violation of a break-in and having your personal property stolen. The best thing you can do is keep all signs that you own a GPS out of sight when parking your car.