Car Thefts Took A Huge Jump In 2020

A Decade of Auto Thefts
Credit: NICB

Apparently, Covid-19 was not a deterrent to car thieves in 2020. In fact, it’s quite the opposite according to an analysis by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. A recent NICB study shows auto theft took a dramatic leap upward in 2020 compared to 2019, reversing two years of auto theft declines.

According to the NICB’s initial study, there were 873,080 auto thefts in 2020, up 9.2 percent over 2019 which had 799,644 thefts. So in 2020 that amounts to a boost of more than 73,000 thefts.

“Preliminary reports indicate a sharp increase in automobile thefts for 2020,” said NICB President and CEO David Glawe. “All indications are 2020 will be the largest theft year in the past decade by a significant margin.”

According to the findings, every month in 2020 showed increases compared to 2019. Overall, the yearly increase was 9.2 percent, however each month from June through December showed double digit gains.

"Based on the preliminary nature of the data, the cause of this increase will require a thorough intelligence assessment,” said Glawe. “Considerations such as the pandemic, economic downturn, loss of juvenile outreach programs and public safety budgetary and resource limitations are likely contributing factors. Thieves exploit opportunities and may look for vehicles parked in the same location or citizens not taking proper measures to secure their vehicles.”

The NICB says if you see something, say something by contacting local law enforcement if you suspect questionable activity in your neighborhood.

Given the unique circumstances of 2020, the NICB says it is distributing this data in advance of its much-anticipated annual Hot Spots report to be released in mid-2021. Due to the scrutiny the data receives from NICB analysts, the Hot Spots report will likely differ to a small extent from this initial analysis.

In response to the increase in auto thefts, the NICB created a new public service announcement highlighting steps people can take to reduce the chances of having their car stolen. The NICB recommends drivers follow four layers of protection to guard against vehicle theft.

  1. Common sense. Vehicle owners should always remove keys from the ignition, lock doors and windows, and park in well-lit areas.
  2. Warning devices. These include visible and audible alarms. Aftermarket alarms are available for all makes and models of cars. Visual devices include column collars, steering wheel locks, and brake locks.
  3. Immobilizing devices. The third layer of protection prevents thieves from bypassing the ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some examples are smart keys; fuse cut-offs; kill switches; starter, ignition, and fuel pump disablers; and wireless ignition authentication.
  4. Tracking devices. Tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles. Some systems combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of a vehicle. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner, and the vehicle can be tracked via computer.
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