SMASH and grab thieves are targeting Edinburgh’s black cabs to steal expensive onboard computers.
Taxis in the Drylaw, Muirhouse, Silverknowes and West Pilton areas of the Capital are among those which have been hit in the last month.
Unattended cabs have had their passenger windows smashed and the contents of their glove boxes raided, with the HTC computers among the items stolen.
The devices are commonly used by firms such as City Cabs and Central Taxis and have software that enables drivers to receive jobs on screen.
Bosses at City Cabs alone said that eight of its vehicles had been targeted in the recent spate of thefts.
Police today urged taxi drivers to take security precautions to thwart the thieves, who have often struck in broad daylight.
William Graham, 55, a taxi driver who lives in Niddrie Farm Grove, was one of the victims.
He said: “It happened on Thursday, November 15, at around 3pm, as I was sitting in the living room. The alarm for the taxi went off. They took my phone and my PDA [personal digital assistant].
“They are quite expensive. That was an older model but the newer ones are a lot more expensive.”
PDAs have software specific to taxis hardwired into them so that they can only perform one function. But their retail value ranges from £300 to £400, making them an attractive target for thieves able to unlock the devices and sell them on.
Dave Conquer, manager of Premier Windscreens Club on Constitution Street, said that he has seen a spike in the number of taxis having passenger side windows replaced. Mr Conquer said that the glaziers had repaired 27 taxis in the last three weeks, with the vast majority resulting from break-ins.
He said: “It’s inside of three to four weeks that this has been going on. There was a spate last weekend. I think we did maybe 12 to 15 from the Friday night through to the Tuesday.
“Normally you could get one maybe two taxis a week with broken side windows but that’s it.”
A spokesman for City Cabs confirmed it had been among the worst hit by the break-ins. He said: “Around eight taxis have been affected since October, mainly in the Silverknowes, Drylaw, Muirhouse and West Pilton areas.”
As broken glass does not generally affect a driver’s no claims discount on their insurance policy, taxi industry insiders say that many of the incidents may have gone unreported to the police.
In response to the surge in break-ins, City Cabs and Central Taxis have issued a warning for drivers to take extra precautions and remove the HTC device from their vehicle when they are unattended.
A police spokesman said: “We take crimes of this nature very, very seriously and we would always advise taxi drivers, or indeed any other motorists, to take precautions to ensure that their car is safe.”