Sat-nav thieves 'dicing with lives'

PUBLISHED: 16:55 02 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:57 22 October 2010

A frontline 999 car was put out of action for several hours today after a smash and grab on satellite navigation equipment in Thetford.

Thieves were accused of dicing with patient's lives today following the latest in a spate of crimes against East Anglian ambulances.

A frontline 999 car was put out of action for several hours after a smash and grab on satellite navigation equipment in Thetford.

The incident at the ambulance station, in Croxton Road, is the 10th case in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire this year and the second time that life-saving technology has been stolen in the town.

Thieves smashed a window between 6.30pm on Thursday and 7am today before ripping out the navigation screen, causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage.

Jay Sykes, clinical field operations manager for the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust, said the screen was useless to anyone who tried to use it in their own vehicle.

“This is idiotic behaviour from people who clearly have no regard for the safety of other people,” he said. “They are prepared to put lives at risk for the sake of trying to sell these things for a few quid in the pub.”

“Any theft from vehicles is obviously wrong, but to put a frontline ambulance vehicle off the road shows a total lack of regard for other people's well-being. Whoever did this should consider that one day they might need an ambulance.”

Portable navigation systems like Navman and TomTom have become increasingly popular with drivers and criminals alike over the last few years, but the ambulance system is completely different, said Mr Sykes.

“We have had a number of thefts of these screens recently across the region, but they can only be used in conjunction with the ambulance service's own system, so they are totally useless to anyone else,” he said.

The latest incident comes six months after five ambulances were seriously damaged in an arson attack at the East Anglian Ambulance Service's workshop in Barton Mills, near Mildenhall. Three ambulances in Norwich and one in Ipswich had their navigation units ripped out a week later.

It also comes in the middle of a police clampdown on vehicle-related crime in Thetford. Operation Wheelclamp has stepped up patrols in problem areas over the last three months and officers have warned drivers about protecting valuable items like laptops and satellite navigation equipment.

The ambulance service Ford Focus was targeted three months ago whilst parked at the cottage hospital in Earls Street and is used by emergency care practitioners to respond to 999 calls and visit patients in the GP out of hours system.

Anyone with any information should contact Thetford CID on 0845 456 4567.

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