Alarming news as we head into the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season. Violent crime and auto thefts are up across the nation, so much so that the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is warning the public to be on heightened awareness for criminal activity over the holidays. The NICB says its analysis shows "significant risk" to individual health and safety, straining already-stretched police resources. Researchers say these criminal threats could potentially even get worse during the holidays, as more foot and car traffic around stores present more opportunities for criminals.
"Historically High" Crime
The picture painted by the NICB isn't a pretty one. The group says the nation is witnessing "historically high auto theft, violent crime and carjackings." Its data shows that 2020 saw the most vehicle thefts in more than a decade. Beginning in June 2020, auto thefts climbed 13%, with 41 states seeing an increase over the previous year, a trend that has continued throughout 2021.
Even more alarming, researchers say, is a dramatic rise in carjackings in many major metropolitan areas. A carjacking involves violent confrontation with an offender who threatens the victim with bodily injury with a weapon or through physical force. In 2020, Chicago carjackings were up a staggering 134%, with 1,416 people being forcibly removed from their vehicle. This trend has continued in 2021, with Chicago seeing a 44% increase, Washington, D.C. up 45%, and New York an 81% increase.
Stay safe this holiday season by remaining alert and aware of your surroundings, and always keep your vehicle locked. The NICB says criminals are searching for unlocked vehicles to take personal belongings and shopping goods, or to steal the car itself. Most holiday shoppers encounter a number of distractions, from heavy traffic to crowded stores, making auto theft and carjacking more probable.
“While people are inside stores spending several hours browsing and waiting in lines, criminals blend into crowded parking lots scanning for vehicles that have belongings or key fobs left inside. Once they find one, if not already unlocked, it takes only five to ten seconds to break a window, grab items and flee the scene without anyone even noticing,” said David Glawe, president and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau. “Even more, some will stakeout desired vehicles, wait for you to return, and under the immediate threat of violence will forcibly take your vehicle. Offenders often prey on those too distracted by their cellphone and surroundings.”
The NICB offers these safety tips to holiday shoppers:
- Roll up your windows, lock your doors, and take the keys or fob with you.
- Park in well-lit areas and, when possible, with security personnel and camera surveillance.
- Keep shopping bags, cell phones, purses, and other personal property out of sight.
- Do not be distracted—have your keys ready to enter your car and be aware of your surroundings.
- Consider an immobilizing or tracking device for your vehicle.
- If confronted by a suspect, remain calm and cooperate. Be a good witness and call 911 when you are able to do so.
We also share some tips for staying safe in mall parking lots here.
The NICB says if your vehicle is stolen, report the theft to the police and contact your insurance company or agent as soon as possible.