Sat-nav thieves put lives at risk

PUBLISHED: 19:24 08 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:59 22 October 2010


Thieves stealing satellite navigations systems from ambulances in the region are putting patients' lives at risk.


Thieves stealing satellite navigations systems from ambulances in the region are putting patients' lives at risk.

The latest sickening theft happened as paramedics were treating a man with a suspected broken leg outside a pub near Norwich and came just 48 hours after another screen was ripped out of a frontline vehicle at the ambulance station in Thetford.

Ambulance chiefs said their message to the thieves was that the screens are useless to anyone other than the ambulance service and cost £260 for the service to replace.

Ambulances up and down the country have been targeted in such thefts and the offenders often strike when the crews are dealing with an emergency call.

The number of satellite navigation system thefts from all vehicles has risen sharply. More than 300 of the screens were stolen over a 12-month period in Sheffield, compared with seven during the same period in 2005, while East Anglia is reported to be one of the worst hotspots.

Rob Lawrence, director of operations at the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust, said the money it cost to replace them was nothing compared to the potential cost of human life if an ambulance was put out of action following a theft.

“These screens are not portable and they are not transferable,” he said. “They are screwed into the ambulance cab and attached to an integral system within the vehicle's bodywork.

“It really beggars belief that anyone would steal something from an ambulance - especially while the crew is away trying to help a patient in quite serious pain.

“It is disgusting behaviour and we will do everything we can to help the police in their investigations.”

The most recent theft happened between 10.56pm when the vehicle arrived at the Brickmakers pub in Horsford, and 11.18pm when it left for the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital. Crew members were helping a man with a leg injury onto s stretcher when the dash-mounted screen was taken.

Two evenings earlier, another 'Sat-Nav' system was stolen from an ambulance at the station on Croxton Road, Thetford, and it was the second time in a year that the equipment had been taken from the Ford Focus emergency vehicle.

A spokeswoman for Norfolk police said the force had on-going operations to combat vehicle crime and arrest those responsible, but there was a great deal that motorists could do to prevent break-ins and thefts.

She said: “Because Sat-Nav systems are fitted to car dashboards this advertises the target to the thieves. With the swing towards the new in-car technology we are reminding people that wherever possible, to take all valuables with them when leaving their vehicles unattended and not to be tempted to just put them in the glove box or under the seat. Criminals know about these hiding places.

“Difficulties arise in an attempting to recover the stolen systems when owners, having bought a Sat-Nav kit, fail to make a note of the serial number.

“Norfolk Constabulary advises owners to record the equipment's serial number - this can be registered free together with their mobile phone with IMMOBILISE by logging onto . This is a Home Office approved database to record any goods bearing a serial number: for example, lap-tops, CD players and even bicycles. This can then be checked by police when suspected stolen property is recovered.”

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