America’s automotive theft epidemic blamed on police officer shortages, soft-on-crime prosecutors

Estimated read time 6 min read

In 2022, the variety of stolen automobiles in the US is predicted to surpass 1 million for the primary time in historical past, shattering earlier information and legislation enforcement struggling to maintain up.

Within the first 9 months of 2022, greater than 745,000 automobiles have been stolen nationwide, in line with Nationwide Insurance coverage and Crime Bureau knowledge. In line with the NICB, that is the very best variety of automobiles stolen within the first 9 months since 2008, a 24% improve from pre-pandemic ranges.

They estimate that stolen automobiles shall be price over $6.6 billion this yr.

Police say the variety of stolen automobiles is way greater than reported. Tom Weitzel, lately retired Chicago suburban police chief in Riverside, Illinois, stated it could be troublesome to show a automotive theft cost with out eyewitness testimony or video proof from the suspect who stole the automotive. As such, prosecutors ought to pursue misdemeanors resembling trespassing.

“Courts and prosecutors definitely do not take automotive theft severely. Until it is an extra-fee carjacking, it is not thought-about a violent crime and the insurance coverage firm pays the sufferer,” he stated. . “This actually skews the numbers from each prosecutors and police who’re downplaying crime as a result of they comprehend it does not final lengthy.”

However even when police and courts falsify numbers, as Weitzel claims, the numbers in main cities throughout the nation are stunning.

Automobile thefts in Denver are up 15% in comparison with the identical interval final yr, a staggering 178% improve in comparison with 2019, and a staggering 80% improve in comparison with 2020.

New York Metropolis skilled a 32% surge in automotive thefts, with 12,901 automobiles stolen by December 11, in contrast with 9,757 throughout the identical interval final yr.

In line with police in Memphis, Tennessee, 9,600 auto thefts have been reported within the first 11 months of 2022, a median of about 30 per day. That is additionally a 100% improve in comparison with the identical interval final yr.

Issues are so unhealthy in Memphis that police are handing out lots of of freewheel locks to curb this pattern.

Automobile thefts in Chicago elevated practically 100% within the first 50 weeks of the yr, with 19,784 automobiles stolen in comparison with 9,933 in the identical interval final yr.

Weitzel, now a police adviser, stated Chicago’s surge in auto thefts has unfold to the suburbs. He stated lots of of automobiles are stolen each evening in Cook dinner County, Illinois, the place Chicago is situated.

“It is by no means been like that earlier than. It is such an epidemic,” he stated.

Because the Nineties, automobile thefts have been trending downward within the 2010s. Nevertheless, NICB knowledge reveals that automotive theft charges have elevated each month since June 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Much more irritating for police is the rising violence of automotive thieves. Earlier this month, a Denver auto theft suspect shot a police officer within the neck throughout an arrest.

Police say, not like earlier automotive thefts the place elements have been stripped from the stolen automobile, most thieves used the automotive to commit one other crime and go away it unhurt.

Betsy Brandtner-Smith, a spokeswoman for the Nationwide Police Affiliation, stated the brand new expertise might be defeated. He stated it was to pursue penalties for thieves.

“If somebody was prosecuting like they used to spend 5 to 10 years in jail, individuals would cease doing it. Folks get punished as a result of they do not.How does that cease you from doing what you are doing?”

Police additionally stated an enormous a part of the issue is that police try to make do with fewer assets and fewer officers. Many police departments have pulled officers out of their auto theft departments and redeployed them to analyze extra violent crimes.

The Washington State Patrol stated earlier this month it could lure 4 officers from its multi-agency activity drive overlaying automotive theft as a result of there aren’t sufficient detectives to deal with different instances. Since 2017, his 4 detectives have recovered 921 of his stolen automobiles price greater than $13 million and contributed to 241 arrests.

“Our assets are restricted and we have now important obligations, so we have to make ongoing changes to how we deploy our assets to fulfill these obligations. I feel everybody would agree that the response to crime has to take its place,” stated Chris Loftus, spokesman for the Washington State Patrol.

By November, a median of 80 automobiles have been stolen per day in King and Pierce counties, two jurisdictions patrolled by the duty drive.

Police in Aurora, Colorado, have pulled officers from a statewide activity drive investigating automotive thefts, citing a scarcity of employees.The state’s automotive theft fee is the very best within the nation, in line with NICB statistics. In line with knowledge from the Colorado Metropolitan Auto Theft Process Pressure, auto thefts within the state have elevated 113% over the previous two years.

One other issue driving the surge in auto theft is the excessive worth of used automobiles, which is outpacing inflation. Provide chain swells, pc chip shortages, and pandemic-related hoarding have resulted in a scarcity of recent automobiles and a rise within the worth of used automobiles. Consequently, extra intact automobiles are being offered on the black market, police stated. That is very true for full-size pickups and different automobiles.

Of specific curiosity to thieves are automotive catalytic converters, which may fetch as a lot as $250 for valuable metals resembling platinum, palladium and rhodium.

Catalytic converter theft has turn out to be such an issue in Philadelphia that the town council handed a invoice this month to curb the surge. The invoice bans the sale of partial catalytic converters and imposes a 90-day jail sentence for anybody convicted of stealing them.

Police additionally say that too many individuals go away their automobiles unprotected, creating a beautiful alternative for thieves. Some drivers maintain the automotive working with it. Different drivers have left their keys of their visors or cup holders.

Automobile thieves are additionally getting extra refined, utilizing expertise to reprogram keyless automobiles to allow them to be opened with out damaging them.

Weitzel stated keyless expertise has made thieves a lot more durable to catch.

“Police on patrol are educated to determine stolen automobiles by trying for lots of harm, resembling shards of glass, but when there isn’t a harm, the police will not discover it,” he stated. .

Automakers have responded with biometric readers that require a fingerprint or iris scan of the automotive proprietor to begin the automobile. Nevertheless, this expertise isn’t but customary.

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