Keep those new car electronics out of view, people! A Miami Herald story today reports that there are an increasing amount of car GPS thefts in South Florida -- especially at airports. Of course it's not surprising since car GPS systems were a hot gift this holiday season.
I got one myself but I've been hiding it in my glove box. Having it always up on the windshield just seems like it would be too tempting to car burglars, so I'll only put it up when I need to use it.
Here's the story about it:
BY NATALIE P. McNEAL AND ALLISON HOLLENBECK
Global Positioning Systems, the high-tech dashboard gadget that keeps husbands and wives from bickering about directions and street adventurers from getting lost, are the latest rage among car burglars.
Over the past few months, vehicles parked at both Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International and Miami International airports have been hit by thieves after the devices.
Investigators say that they are easy to steal and even easier to sell on the Internet.
The Broward Sheriff's Office is investigating 23 car thefts -- 18 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport garages -- since October.
The thieves shattered windows, opened unlocked car doors and pried open doors to get to the valuable systems which can cost from $300 to $1,000.
''The incidents started picking up during the holidays,'' said BSO Lt. Brian Montgomery. ``Lots of people were rushing out to catch planes and forgot to put the GPS in the glove compartments.''
Miami International Airport organized a sting in November to nab a car burglar at the airport's parking lot who was snatching the gadgets out of vehicles. Ludwin Iran Laboriel, 27, of Opa-locka was caught red-handed breaking the window of a decoy vehicle to steal a GPS, police said.
''Anything that's on a vehicle and that's not attached can turn into a crime of opportunity, '' said Detective Alvaro Zabaleta, spokesman for Miami-Dade police.
BOOM IN SALES
Since 2006, the portable direction device market has increased 210 percent, with 6.5 million of the devices shipped to sellers, according to IDC, a market research group. The portable devices are now a $1.7 billion industry.
''I went to the zoo the other day, and the parking attendant told me to be sure to take it out of my car,'' said Diana Hwang, a research manager at IDC. ``We hear more and more about this type of thing.''
So far, BSO has stepped up surveillance at airport parking garages and is testing blood samples left by a criminal who cut his or her flesh breaking a car window. Travelers at Fort Lauderdale's airport can expect more marked cars to deter criminals.
But the efforts didn't come soon enough to protect Kevin Weinberg's device. He found his truck, parked at an off-site airport, ransacked when he returned from his Bahamas vacation on Dec. 2. The thieves stole Weinberg's GPS, worth $650, his XM Radio and briefcase.
To make matters worse, the thief wrote $10,000 worth of checks on three of his bank accounts.
CAUGHT ON VIDEO
BSO is searching for a suspect who was caught on a surveillance video depositing one of Weinberg's stolen checks for $4,100 into a North Miami Bank of America ATM on Dec. 1.
''I had to drive home with wires out of my dashboard,'' said Weinberg, 40, of Ocala. ``It's a very nasty deal.''
On Wednesday, travelers at Fort Lauderdale's airport expressed concern about the burglaries.
Art Mable of Atlanta said the thefts made him nervous.
''If I had known about that I would have rearranged stuff in my car,'' he said.