Why Vehicle Theft Is Rising Across the Country

  • July 10, 2017
  • kdailey


More vehicles are stolen in the summer months than during any other time. That’s why LoJack has designated July National Vehicle Theft Protection Month (NVTPM) to help educate drivers about how they can best protect their vehicles. It’s especially important to be vigilant this summer, as data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report shows auto theft crimes are on the rise. As we enter yet another hot July, it’s worth taking a look at why this is happening.

Although innovations from automotive manufacturers have helped reduce overall theft rates for the past 10 years, in 2015 alone there were 707,758 motor vehicle thefts across the U.S.—that’s 220.2 auto thefts per 100,000 citizensaccording to FBI data. This represents a 3.1 percent increase since 2014. What’s more, preliminary FBI data for 2016 shows that total motor vehicle thefts in the U.S. are not only still on the rise, but have more than doubled to 6.6 percent. This may be evidence that more thieves have learned to bypass the latest security systems as they hone their techniques.

A closer look at the preliminary FBI data for 2016 shows yet another alarming trend. Although auto theft rates are up everywhere, the report showed only modest gains in the Northeast (0.1 percent). Other regions, such as the Midwest (2.6 percent) and South (4.1 percent), rose by slightly higher margins. However, the most significant gains by far can be seen in the West, which experienced an astounding 11.3 percent rise. This tells us auto theft is potentially undergoing a dramatic transformation as thieves may be moving their operations from the crowded metropolitan corridors of the Northeast to the more expansive West Coast.

There are a number of reasons this may be happening. First, police departments across the nation are having a harder time recruiting, a problem that has become especially apparent in California, which has some of the highest rates of auto theft in the nation. A contributing factor in California may be that the state has passed laws and propositions in the past decade that allow for reduced sentences for nonviolent offenders. Pair this with California’s and other western states’ close proximity to Mexico—where criminals can easily sell stolen vehicles and parts—and it’s easier to see why auto theft rates in the West are on the rise.

It can also be helpful to understand the infrastructures auto thieves rely on. Rather than stealing vehicles and reselling them wholesale, thieves often take them to a chop shop, where they can be disassembled quickly and sold part by part. Aside from making it much more difficult for individual vehicles to be tracked down, this approach often yields a much higher profit, as individual parts can be resold to unwitting buyers for close to their original value.

The 2015 FBI data shows that across the nation, auto thieves are refining their tactics, circumventing car security systems, and eluding authorities. For this reason, it’s more important than ever to stay educated about vehicle theft and to practice common sense car safety tips every day. Lock your doors, keep your windows shut, and make sure there are no valuables left in your car, and you’ll already be miles ahead.

For even more safety tips, check out this short and helpful video from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

As part of National Vehicle Theft Protection Month, look out for more posts to help you stay informed.