Pretoria - Police believe they have uncovered the reason behind the high number of theft of cellphones and laptops out of cars in the city and anywhere else across the country.
Spokesperson Captain Collett Weilbach said criminals were using increasingly sophisticated, directional wi-fi detectors to home in on the laptop or cellphone.
This could detect the gadgets from where they had been hidden, be it under the seat of the car or in the boot.
Weilbach urged members of the public, particularly motorists, to turn off the wi-fi of laptops and cellphones to avoid opening an invitation to thieves.
Police in the Brooklyn area, largely populated by students, as well as Sunnyside and the CBD have reported on an increase in the number of laptops stolen out of motor vehicles.
On Tuesday, a businesswoman who had parked at a petrol service station in Groenkloof became a victim of the crime.
“I parked my car and walked to a restaurant, and all was well. On my return about two hours later, I noticed that one of the rear windows had been smashed.
"I checked under the driver’s seat where my laptop, valued at R15 000, had been, and was alarmed to find it gone.”
She said the laptop couldn’t be seen from any of the windows, and was thus puzzling how the perpetrators could have spotted it.
“I am convinced that they used some kind of a device to detect that I had a laptop in the car. I did not touch the laptop after parking the car, and it had been under the seat the entire time.”
Weilbach said in the majority of the cases, only laptops were stolen out of vehicles.
“The possibility is investigated that there is a new device that allow criminals to locate laptops in parked vehicles.
"Surrounding vehicles are not broken into; the criminals somehow break only into the car (with) laptops.” she said.
She said parking areas at shopping centres, schools, hospitals, sport events and gyms were targeted.
“Sometimes the doors or boots are forced open, and other times windows are broken to gain access.
“In a few incidents there are no signs of forced entry to the vehicle.
"The reports over weekends are the highest,” she said.
The police have cautioned motorists not to leave valuables inside a parked vehicle. Laptop owners in particular were advised to switch these off when travelling to make it invisible to other Bluetooth or wi-fi enabled devices and detectors.