Cops asking public’s help in preventing GPS thefts

Removing your GPS when you park is the approach recommended by police.


A rash of GPS (global positioning system) unit thefts from vehicles on Harrison streets and in parking lots is cause for concern among public officials.

A statement released by the Police Department last Thursday intended for the motoring public said: “Mayor (Raymond) McDonough, the Town Council and Police Chief (Derek) Kearns would like to remind you to not leave valuables, especially GPS units, in your vehicles.

“Travelling criminals have been known to smash windows to steal navigation systems.”

Residents are referred to the municipal website at for more crime prevention tips.

Kearns told The Observer that the thefts are happening “all over town, including some in the southern district near the PATH station and in parking lots in that section” and that “all types” of vehicles have been victimized.

“In the last two months,” Kearns said, “we’ve seen a significant spike in the numbers of both attempted and actual thefts to motor vehicles,” with many resulting in the removal of the GPS systems from vehicles.

“Normally,” the chief said, “we average 10 (thefts or attempted thefts from cars) a month but we went from 11 in July to 30 in August to 33 in September.”

And, Kearns said, “it’s generally the same M.O. (method of operation) each time: a window is smashed and the burglar rummages through the vehicle’s glove box or center console.”

Thus far, no suspects have been apprehended in connection with the thefts and/or attempted thefts, nor have police come up with any physical evidence that might lead them to a suspect or suspects, according to the chief.

Kearns said that while it’s tempting for motorists to leave the GPS in the car, “We are asking people to take time to remove the device so that it’s not in open view and an inviting target, especially since a GPS is something that a thief can sell easily on the black market,” he said.

“You can disengage the device from the suction cup but remember that the imprint remains on your windshield – and that’s a signal to a thief that there’s a GPS being used – so you might want to wipe that imprint down to prevent the temptation of someone trying to break into your car,” Kearns added.

In most of the cases where the GPS thefts have occurred, Kearns noted, “it’s been outside of our (CCTV surveillance) street camera range, so that’s been a strong motivation for us to extend our camera surveillance system.”

Since mid-summer, the Police Department has been undertaking a slow but steady remodeling of its communications room to accommodate additional computer screens which, according to Kearns, will, eventually, be linked up to an expanded wireless camera network to be monitored by civilian dispatchers.

In the meantime, beginning this week, Kearns said the department will be “deploying our SkyCam (a robotic camera)” to record as much activity as possible in target areas not tracked currently by existing camera units.

– Ron Leir

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