- Cities across the country have seen increases in car thefts in the previous several weeks, despite overall drops in crime during the coronavirus pandemic.
- New York City has had it particularly hard; the city has seen car thefts increase 63 percent so far this year as compared to the year prior.
- Nonetheless, not all cities have had car thefts increase; Miami and Chicago have both seen rates fall.
Car thieves aren’t going to give up their chosen line of work, even if there is a pandemic and most of the country is sheltering in place. On the contrary: cities both big and small across the country have seen an uptick in car theft since the mandatory shutdowns began back in mid-March to thwart the spread of coronavirus.
In New York City, the number of stolen cars through April 29 was up 63.1 percent compared to the same period last year. Although the NYPD acknowledged that the pandemic has contributed to the rise, they also cited a reform in the state bail system which bars pretrial detention in many misdemeanor or nonviolent cases, emboldening car thieves.
While crime fell in Denver between March 15 and April 12—the first four weeks of the shutdown in the city—the number of car thefts increased 18 percent compared to the same period last year. An officer who oversees car theft said in the Denver Post that the number of stolen cars typically increases as the weather warms up, but the rise has been relatively significant and not at the usual pace.
In Los Angeles, car thefts between March 22 and April 18 were up 20 percent as compared to the month prior and up 8 percent compared to the same period in 2019. In the month prior to April 28, Minneapolis saw a 35 percent increase in car theft, and year to date has seen an increase of 56 percent.
Other cities have seen increases in thefts from cars, meaning thieves are stealing things out of cars and not the whole car. In Hartford, Connecticut, police saw this form of theft increase 75 percent in March as compared to the same period in 2019. Between February 17 and March 29, the police department in Lincoln, Nebraska, saw thefts from cars increase 99 percent compared to a year prior.
Nonetheless, the spike in auto theft hasn’t been seen everywhere. In Miami for the year to date, the number of car thefts is down 8.4 percent compared to last year. And in Chicago, in the month prior to April 26, the city saw auto thefts decrease 18 percent as compared to the year prior. Crime as a whole has dropped around the country and globally. New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago have all seen double-digit drops in crime totals. In Latin America, as the AP reported, crime is down to levels that haven’t been seen for a number of years because of the coronavirus.
Academics and political analysts have often argued that there is a correlation between economic downturns and increases in crime, even though the ties between the two are strongly debated. That said, stealing a car is one crime that people are able to commit while staying socially isolated, so while you’re locked inside, make sure you’re locking your car as well.