Mysterious device gives thieves keyless entry to vehicles

By Grant Olsen, Contributor | Posted - Apr 10th, 2013 @ 11:41am

LONG BEACH, Calif. — As reported by CBS News, police in California are concerned by a recent surveillance video that shows thieves gaining access to locked vehicles. The three criminals have broken into at least seven vehicles, using small, handheld devices that cause “the vehicle’s dome light to come on and doors to unlock,” according to a news release from detective Joseph Starbird.

The break-ins took place on Feb. 26 in an East Long Beach neighborhood.

Auto theft experts from the Long Beach Police Department are stumped by the crimes and have consulted international law enforcement agencies and car manufacturers in an effort to identify the devices used by the thieves. Thus far, experts are unsure of the technology used.

Police have now turned to the public, asking for help with identifying the criminals and their keyless entry devices.

“This is a situation where technology is working against us, making our job much more challenging at a time where resources are already strained,” said Chief Jim McDonnell. “Just as law enforcement tactics evolve, so does the criminal element’s, and we need the community’s involvement more so than ever.”

Due to the stealthy nature of the vehicle crimes, police believe that there are likely many more victims who have been burglarized and not even realized it. They recommend that car owners remove all valuables and extra keys in their vehicles, as well as installing motion lights outside their homes.

This is not the first time that authorities have encountered thieves using high-tech devices for vehicle crime.

This is a situation where technology is working against us, making our job much more challenging at a time where resources are already strained.

–- Chief Jim McDonnell

The Telegraph in London reported last year on how a rash of perplexing car thefts led police there to discover a sophisticated technique called lock jamming. Criminals would wait until a car owner parked the car, then as the owner attempted to lock the car remotely, the thieves used a handheld device to jam the locking signals from the owner’s remote key. After entering the unlocked car, the criminal would connect a key-programming device to its computer system and program a blank key to start the vehicle.

Thieves stole more than 1,000 vehicles in London alone last year using lock jamming. Car manufacturers are working to counteract techniques like lock jamming, but find it difficult to stay ahead of increasingly tech-savvy criminals.

Grant Olsen joined the team in 2012. He covers travel, outdoor adventures and other interesting things. Contact him at

Grant Olsen

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