San Jose police working to prevent high-tech car burglaries, sophisticated twist to smash and grabs

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Part of building a better Bay Area involves exploring new ways of protecting yourself, your family, and your belongings.

As technology continues to advance, criminals are doing the same. They're learning new ways to pull off old tricks. For that reason, the San Jose Police Department is warning people about high-tech car burglaries.

We've heard the warnings and have read the signs: "To prevent car break-ins, keep valuables out of sight."

However, crooks are getting crafty and are using tech to take what's yours. With technology, they can seek out electronic devices that are tucked away in your trunk.

"Thieves are now utilizing or intercepting Bluetooth signals in order to target and locate cars that would have any electronic device that can connect to the internet," Monica Rueda said. "For example: laptops, iPads or even earbuds."

Rueda is a Crime Prevention Specialist with the San Jose Police Department.

San Jose resident, Jessica Little, recently lost her laptop in a high-tech car burglary. Her car's sunshade, tinted windows and her gated community couldn't keep her gadgets safe. Little's laptop was taken right from her trunk.

"I don't power anything off. So, it was clearly on," Little told ABC7 News. "It was searching for WiFi, and it's got a good battery, as long as I'm not using it. So, it was clearly putting out the signal."

Since the burglary, Little has made a point to keep all her electronic devices close.

"I generally have two cell phones- one for work, one for personal. I have my tablet, I have my personal laptop, and my professional laptop," she said. "So I've got all sorts of electronic devices that at any time can be in my car, and now I can't ever leave them."

Crime Prevention Specialist Rueda said criminals are able to sniff out signals. The department has partnered with San Jose businesses to warn people about this sophisticated twist to the all-too-common smash and grab.

"It's important to remember to remember that there are specific and sophisticated devices to locate the electronics," Rueda added.

For the most part, crooks only need a connection.

"They can follow it with what's called a field strength meter," Eugene Casanova said. "And the field strength meter will gauge how much signal strength that they are either walking away from or towards."

Casanova has spent years in the tech field and is familiar with such devices.

"If the signal increases, that means they're walking towards the target car," he added.

Experts say if you must leave your tech in your trunk, be sure to power down.

"The hacker world recommends that you try and protect yourself by turning off as many wireless radios when you're not using them, as possible," Ian Sherr, CNET News Editor-at-Large, told ABC7 News.

He added, "It's a fair bet that as technology gets more advanced, criminals are learning new ways to pull off the old tricks."

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