Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, crimes related to vehicles — from car thefts to stolen catalytic converters and carjackings — have surged. And a new analysis by the National Insurance Crime Bureau indicates things aren’t getting much better.
Thieves stole close to 500,000 vehicles through June 30 of this year, which is equivalent to $4.5 billion in losses. That is a full 25% increase over the same period in 2019, the last year before the pandemic.
The NICB projects that by the end of this year, about 100,000 more vehicles will have been stolen in 2022 than were taken in 2019.
In a summary of the analysis, David Glawe, president and CEO of the NICB, says:
“Since the start of the pandemic, used car prices have increased 35 to 40 percent. Criminals are exploiting these high prices as vehicle and catalytic converter thefts are crimes of opportunity. And crime is a business, and business is good.”
Vehicle thefts have surged in three cities in particular from the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2022. They are:
- Denver: 155% increase
- Philadelphia: 106%
- Austin, Texas: 64%
Over that same period, catalytic converter thefts have surged 1,215% higher nationwide, and carjackings have jumped between 160% to more than 500% in some major cities.
Glawe says there is one good solution to the problem:
“To stop this lawlessness, we must focus our attention on these criminals and take back our streets. We must re-invest in our law enforcement.”
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year, Glawe recommended the following policy changes:
- Increasing community policing programs
- Revisiting well-intentioned criminal justice reform policies
- Enforcing the laws as written
- Focusing attention on violent offenders
- Collecting national and state data on carjackings
- Identifying and implementing successful early intervention programs
The NICB notes that President Joe Biden recently used an executive order to adopt many of these recommendations.
How to protect your vehicle from thieves
To keep your vehicle safe, the NICB recommends you use common sense with your car. This includes such simple measures as locking doors and windows and parking in well-lit areas.
In addition, consider installing:
- Audible warning devices and other deterrents. Visible deterrents — such as column collars, steering wheel locks and brake locks — can scare off crooks.
- Immobilizing devices. For extra protection, install these devices, which prevent crooks from bypassing the ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Such devices include smart keys, fuse cut-offs, kill switches and wireless ignition authentication.
- Tracking devices. Systems that combine GPS and wireless technologies allow remote monitoring of your car. If the vehicle moves, you will be notified.