Google Earth and Snapchat Help Man Find Stolen Car in Record Time

A 23-year-old engineer in the UK outsmarted a cheeky thief by using his smartphone as a digital detective, highlighting the power of technology to combat crime. Jayy Robinson of Birmingham woke up to two of his cars missing from his driveway, the BBC reported. He says thieves broke into his home while he slept and took off with his Seat and a Volkswagen Golf. He contacted police but was left ”unimpressed” with their response. Then he did something pretty clever: He posted about the theft on social media.

It was there that the thief’s attempt to sell Robinson his car back came to light. The thief sent him a blurry video on the image-sharing platform Snapchat that appeared to show the stolen Seat parked in an unknown location. Then, he demanded that Robinson transfer them PS2,000 to secure the vehicle’s return.

Robinson was alerted to the ploy by a friend who spotted the video on his Snapchat story and informed him of the attempted sale. His tech-savvy friends quickly got to work on identifying the vehicle’s location. By comparing the images to landmarks on Google Earth, they were able to pinpoint the location of the stolen Seat on a housing estate in West Bromwich.

Typically, the top-selling brands are targeted by thieves seeking quick profits. The best-selling Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa make the list of the most stolen vehicles in Britain, followed by more expensive models like the Range Rover. This is due to the cars’ straightforward mechanical design, making them easier for thieves to break into and hotwire. More sophisticated thieves target cars with advanced security features, aiming to sell them overseas or to illegal ”chop shops” that specialize in stripping and selling car parts.

A recent report by AA Insurance found that the recovery rate for stolen cars in the UK is around 50%. But this figure can vary depending on several factors, including the type of vehicle and the area where it was stolen. High-end vehicles tend to have better recovery rates, as they are more likely to have advanced security features and be fitted with tracking devices.

While Range Rovers are the most frequently stolen cars in Britain, other luxury SUVs are also popular targets for criminal gangs. The best-selling Ford Focus, Mercedes C- and E-Classes, and BMW are also commonly stolen by organized gangs. Last year, the DVLA recorded 61,106 vehicles as stolen in the UK — an average of 159 cars per day and 1,117 every week. This is a 26% increase on the previous year. The AA advises drivers to be vigilant and make their vehicles and homes more secure to protect themselves against this growing problem. It also recommends installing a steering wheel lock. This will prevent thieves from taking the car if they see you trying to stop them. The RAC also suggests that owners check the registration numbers of any vehicles they buy to ensure they are not stolen.

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