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Violent crime is down but car thefts are way up since the pandemic, report says

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Car thefts in some cities have doubled in just four years, part of an overall rise. And while most stolen cars are unoccupied when stolen, some cities have seen a nearly 30% increase in carjackings in the same time period.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ). It echoes recent studies from the National Insurance Crime Bureau that also found car theft spiking since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Violent crime down, car theft up

CCJ’s report looked at crime in 35 American cities. It found that murder, aggravated assault, gun crimes, and domestic violence incidents all dropped in 2022. But motor vehicle theft rose sharply during the pandemic.

The authors caution that the cities selected for the study “are not necessarily representative of all U.S. cities.”

“There were 37,560 more motor vehicle thefts in 2022 than in 2021, amounting to an average increase of nearly 21% over 2021 and a 59% increase over 2019, the year before the pandemic began,” researchers found.

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News reverses a long, positive trend

Motor vehicle theft had “plummeted for several decades” pre-pandemic as automakers improved security. But from the start of 2019 to the end of 2022, car theft spiked by an average of 59% in 30 of the 35 cities studied. “Vehicle thefts more than doubled in eight of the cities,” the report says.

It doesn’t offer firm explanations. The report notes a spike in thefts of older Kia
and Hyundai
cars after social media posts describing a security vulnerability in some became viral, but notes “motor vehicle thefts had begun to rise long before then,” and some of the most-stolen cars come from other manufacturers.

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The report documents a rise in carjacking, but it cautions that researchers “were able to obtain data on carjacking for just seven cities.” Because of limited data, they caution, their conclusions are tentative. They found that “carjackings are most likely to occur at or near the victim’s home,” and almost 40% of offenders are armed with a firearm. “More than a quarter of the victims are injured,” they report. Police recovered 56% of vehicles taken in a carjacking.

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