People are stealing more cars, at least in major cities across the United States, and the upward trend strongly corresponds with the beginning of the pandemic. Data from the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) shows that some cities have doubled or tripled motor vehicle thefts since 2019.
Vehicle thefts have been declining for decades as automakers add theft deterrent tech and other features that have made it difficult to nab unmonitored cars. CCJ found that the trend reversed at the beginning of the pandemic and has continued through the end of last year. The study looked at 35 metro areas, including Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, and others.
The increase in auto thefts has cost American car owners billions, but the CCJ notes other costs associated with the crimes. Robberies, drive-by shootings, and other illegal activities are often committed from the anonymity of a stolen car. Making the situation worse, carjackings also increased in some cities by almost 30 percent, and the data shows that the people committing the crimes are getting younger; juvenile carjackings doubled between 2016 and 2021.
CCJ’s study found that there have been two phases of the rise in vehicle crimes. The first increase came in early 2020, with the pandemic's start. Crime rates increase again, much more sharply this time, in spring 2022. The National Insurance Crime Bureau determined that vehicle thefts rose by 27 percent between 2019 and 2021, and catalytic converter thefts jumped by 1,215 percent.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration laid out a few simple rules to help prevent vehicle thefts, saying that a car was stolen every 39 seconds in America in 2020. If you’re worried about losing your vehicle to a would-be thief, it’s a good idea to not leave anything valuable in your car, park in well-lit areas, and always close windows and lock the doors. You can also invest in an immobilizer or theft alarm.
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