Car Park Theft

image A sign photographed outside a pub in England bears this warning:

Dear Customers,
Thames Valley Police have brought to our attention that thieves now have the technical means to identify electrical products hidden anywhere within a vehicle INCLUDING THE BOOT!
Lap Top Computers being the main target.
Please note we are happy to store most items for the duration of your visit just ask at the bar.

The question this raises in my mind (and the mind of the person who took the picture) is whether thieves really do have the ability to detect laptop computers hidden anywhere in a car, or is the warning a hoax? I suppose it would be possible to detect hidden electronic gear, given the right equipment. But it doesn't seem like the kind of stuff your average thief would be carrying around. And why does the invitation to give your laptop to the guy behind the bar seem a bit fishy?

Photos Technology

Posted on Sun Mar 13, 2005


Ehhh. My dear grandmother always taught me to be VERY wary of taking any valuables to bars. She once had a friend who was going into a sports bar to meet some relatives and watch, I think, a football game; "for safekeeping," she put her purse in the trunk (or the boot, I suppose) of her car. Naturally, a roving thief or two were watching her every move, and she came back several hours later to find her trunk pried open and her purse gone.

Not that that really has any bearing on the above story...😉 I would wonder about the alleged ability to "detect electronics", though. Aren't there a whole lot of car parts nowadays that are at least partly electronic? I'd think their "electronics detector" would be going off like crazy, if so.
Posted by Katherine  on  Sun Mar 13, 2005  at  11:09 PM
I'm quite certan that customs officials, aiport security, and others would *love* anything that could detect electronics so accurately and with such efficiency. It's obviously quite portable, as you aren't seeing thieves lugging huge boxes around and scanning each car..

Let's see... Playing Devil's Advocate.. possible ways it could work would be through some form of electromagnetic scanning, similar to what is used in stores for theft protection.. A properly set up field could set up an inductive current in electronic devices, and by analyzing the EM radiation that's generated by that current, you could tell basically what has wires and what doesn't. With a bit of refinement, you could determine what's an iPod and what's part of the car..

The downside being of course that such a device would basically be an uncontained microwave oven, irradiating the thieves nicely. In addition, anything capable of scanning through the metal frame in such a way would cook anything even remotely electronic, rendering them useless to thieves.. Ditto X-rays.. A gamma scanner might work, but those are big. Infra-red scanning might show interesting chunks of metal, but is still too imprecise.
Posted by Bobcat  on  Sun Mar 13, 2005  at  11:51 PM
"...thieves now have the technical means to identify electrical products hidden anywhere within a vehicle..."

This statement could easily be true, all it would take is someone with a video camera across the street watching as you put your stuff away.

Or electro-torture, it's technical too.
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  01:03 AM
The strung-out dimwits who've broken into my car about eight times so far apparently didn't have the technical means (or even the common sense) to figure out that it contained no electronic equipment, nor anything else worth stealing.

I think two common misconceptions about theft are that thieves are smart and that they plan their crimes carefully. Any ocurrance of either of these would be a relatively rare exception.
Posted by Big Gary C  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  01:25 AM
Wouldn't the equipment have to be running?
Posted by Paul in Prague  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  01:33 AM
Big Gary... There are actually a lot of smart thieves, they are the ones that don't get caught, and that is why you don't see them. Yes, the smart ones get caught, but not in as great of numbers as the dummies.

People who break into cars to make cash fall into the dumber category... there are too many ways to get caught. Smarter thieves don't bother with cars.

And as for dummies with tech equipment, have you ever seen what teenagers with a little cash can do? Not that all teenagers are dummies, but a teenage dummy can be really dangerous. Especially if he has a wad of cash.
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  02:11 AM
The management of this pub have probably themselves fallen for some sort of misinformation about the thieves
Posted by Andy  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  02:37 AM
When I first saw the title 'Car Park Theft', I assumed, being a hoax thingy, that it was about car parks being stolen.
How disappointing.
Maybe we can all get together one day and steal a carpark. That would be a mand bender.
Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  04:23 AM
I mean mind bender.
Perhaps I should actually re-read what I post.
Nah, too much effort.
Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  04:24 AM
If the theives did have a device to detect electronic equiptment in the car, "Wouldn't the equipment have to be running?" as Paul said?
I think this is the simplest way to debunk this roumer without resorting to criminal-pyscology.
Posted by Katey  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  07:15 AM
...No one has touched on the possibility that the bar owners could be luring people to leave things w/ the barkeeps...& when you go to retrieve it..."What do you mean a laptop? You never gave me a laptop!"

...Sort of like The Wolf asking Little Red Riding Hood to come closer.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  08:55 AM
"My, Grandma, what nice pints you have!"

"All the better to get your hidden electronics, my dear!"

Sorry, I was abducted by aliens last night, and I'll never be the same.
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  09:09 AM
In England the BBC has vans that patrol looking for the sugnals given off by TV sets so they can charge and fine them. I do not see how far that is from this. The means to detect is out there in my view and the criminals most likely have it.
Posted by gunner  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  10:01 AM
Gunner, I've heard that story too, and I've often wondered if it's true or if it's just a rumor spread by the BBC to scare people into paying their telly licensing fees.
Posted by Big Gary C  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  10:18 AM
I saw it on T.V., it must be true. 😜

Seriously though, I did see it. I could not believe it because they were saying that you neede a T.V. licence in England just to watch T.V. They showed the guys driving around triangulating T.V. positions, but never showed a "bust".

I don't know if it's true, but I'll look around and report back...

I would have to imagine that if the thief could afford sensing equipment, he would not bother stealing a laptop.

Here's an idea... New cars should be equipped with Faraday Boxes just in case they ever end up at a British pub...
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  10:41 AM
Okay, BBC t.v. licence site...

Ron Kaufman's licence site...

The second site show pics of the van they use to haul the equipment around, as well as all kinds of info about the licence "system".

I must point out that the company that does the testing, which Ron has listed cash amounts for, is very large, and all of these profits do not come from the tv business, as he implies. I also wonder about his other statements, and the site as a whole, because tv's are not capable of "illegally broadcasting 30-year-old re-runs of Monty Python". They do not braodcast at all.
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  11:19 AM
I just looked at the BBC licensing info page.
It's nice to know that you can get a TV license for half price if you're blind. I guess they figure you're only using the audio half of the TV programs.
Posted by Big Gary C  on  Tue Mar 15, 2005  at  01:16 AM
"I could not believe it because they were saying that you neede a T.V. licence in England just to watch T.V. "

You do in Wales too, and Northern Ireland. And up here in Scotland. Y'know, all the rest of Britain.
I can hear an uprising. All the ignored Brits are coming for vengeance.
Sorry, but it's frustrating.
Posted by Boo  in  The Land of the Haggii...  on  Tue Mar 15, 2005  at  02:44 AM
I thought it was more a comment that people who have their car done over always claim on insurance that they had an expensive laptop in the boot.
Posted by Naughty Ned  on  Tue Mar 15, 2005  at  03:20 AM

Yeah, a gold plated laptop...
Posted by Boo  in  The Land of the Haggii...  on  Tue Mar 15, 2005  at  04:33 AM
As already pointed out, those of us in the rest of the UK need a license to watch TV just as much as those in England. It's a pity, it'd be great to sit in, say, Gretna and laugh at our neighbours a mile or two down the road who had to fork out
Posted by Iain  on  Tue Mar 15, 2005  at  08:06 AM
How about the idea that maybe the bar owners are just trying to lure in new customers? Once you go to get your property back, you could "properly thank" them by buying a drink. Then, you can't drive away, so you might as well have another, etc.
Posted by thephrog  on  Tue Mar 15, 2005  at  02:30 PM
Any electronic device that transmits can be detected - while it's transmitting. And with gear purchased at Radio Shack. It's very difficullt to detect microcircuitry and since a laptop can not be discerend from other micro-circuitry in a boot while off,I think the answer is that this is an over-elaborate way of saying "we can not be held respnsible". I've seen similar signs in lawsuit-happy California restaurants.
Posted by jimmyjay  on  Fri Mar 18, 2005  at  08:35 PM
You know, come to think of it, the sign should read:

"If you park in our parking lot, there's a good chance some wanker will break into your car, especially if they see you open the boot first. Use common sense and bring your expensive shite in with you, and neither one of us will have to spend excessive amounts of time with the police."

Better than trying to fool someone with a BS electronics story.
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Fri Mar 18, 2005  at  08:51 PM
Funny, the idea seems to be catching on.. Received this mail from a friend in the UK today, see the section starting with 'Worse'.


Protecting PA's Equipment from Car Thieves - All UK Staff E-mail from Carl Potter - Head of Operations and Administration
> Unfortunately we have recently been seeing a significant rise in the number of thefts of laptops (and other PA equipment) from vehicles in the UK. Many vehicles today, particularly Hatchbacks, 4x4s and Estate Cars, by design do not have fully sealed boots as a result of their foldable seats and pull-over soft covers. This makes it much easier for thieves to gain access to the boot (by smashing a rear window and pulling off the inside boot cover), and they can do this quickly enough to ignore the fact that the car has an alarm system. Worse, we have now become aware that some car theft gangs are now using scanning devices which can detect the BIOS battery in a computer. This enables them to target specific vehicles, typically smashing a window, finding the laptop and getting away within a matter of seconds. A typical example of this was a theft from a PA consultant a couple of weeks ago, from a VW hatchback, where the car was the only one in the car park that the thieves targeted, and the computer was removed.
> 🐍
Posted by TDOLS  on  Thu Mar 31, 2005  at  02:46 AM
It sounds feasible enough, although how these scanners would actually work is annother thing...
Detecting the emissions from batteries seems a little far fetched to me (an machine sensitive enough to pick a battery out of a metal boot would probably be rather big!
A more likely avenue is EM emissions from a transmitter of some-kind i.e. mobile phone or notebook WiFi card. Most mobile phones are only in standby when they are 'off', and still transmit/receive data, likewise a laptop is rarely completely off (unless you remove the battery), WOL anyone. So it seems fairly reasonable that you should be able to make a short range detector for these devices that would be pretty portable.
As to whether theives have access to these kind of devices, I guess it's just a matter of time...
Posted by Andy  on  Tue Apr 05, 2005  at  10:43 AM
Think of it this way...

If the technology is there to detect inactive electronics, why don't they have these scanners in airports all over the US, where any and all technology is currently being used to annoy passengers?

Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Tue Apr 05, 2005  at  11:17 AM
About Laptop theft yes it rising from car like you cannot believe but we have the product to stop this it called secureitsafe and visit our website to make sure you do not become a victim
Posted by Darren  on  Mon Apr 25, 2005  at  11:28 AM
Yes, we have detector vans but this is not that complicated. Thieves simply use a Bluetooth mobile phone in a car park to search for devices , as this only works in close proximity they have an idea something (phone or laptop) is nearby, choosing which car relies on guesswork!
Posted by Jim  on  Thu Dec 15, 2005  at  08:00 AM
what is the name divice can detect laptop inside car?where i can buy it?how much?T.Q for your info..
Posted by azhar  on  Tue Apr 01, 2008  at  03:26 AM
Well.. here's your device...
Posted by Joffri Roodselaar  on  Mon Apr 14, 2008  at  06:46 AM
Yes the detection does work, but it isn't some hi-tech thing.

Basically if your laptop is equipped with BlueTooth and is in standby then it will respond to other BlueTooth devices including mobile phones when they initiate a search.

The response tells the thief that the laptop is nearby. Progressively shielding the thief's BlueTooth device reduces its range and moving the device around allows the location of the target to be narrowed down. Eventually the thief can make a good guess as to which car to break into.

The solution is not to leave your laptop in standby mode. If it's off it won't respond.
Posted by William  on  Fri Oct 03, 2008  at  12:44 AM
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