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Here’s a puzzle for you: Why are auto theft crime rates in this country going up, while almost every other type of crime is nearing record lows?

Yes, you read that correctly: crime in the U.S.A. is incredibly low. It might not seem it, but that’s probably because we all consume more news stories on a daily than ever before. We’re constantly tuned in to the absolute worst happenings across our country.

Statistics show that specific crime categories (murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, property crime, burglary, and larceny) as well as the overall violent crime average are plummeting. In fact, if you look at all the municipalities that track this data quarterly, we are seeing the largest percentage declines in crime…ever.

“Detroit is on pace to have the fewest murders since 1966 and Baltimore and St Louis are on pace for the fewest murders in each city in nearly a decade…Murder is down 13.4 percent in cities under 100,000 with data in the sample and it’s down 12.6 percent in cities with 250,000 or more….The quarterly data shows violent crime down in big cities, small cities, suburban counties, and rural counties, pretty much across the board…To put some of this in perspective, a 4 percent decline in the nation’s violent crime rate relative to 2022’s reported rate would lead to the lowest violent crime rate nationally since 1969.”

Jeff Asher, Crime analyst

This data is collected by the FBI, and the municipalities reporting in only cover 78% of the country. But overall, things are looking very positive in the U.S.A.

So why then, is auto theft on the rise? Over 1 million vehicles were stolen in 2022. That a 7% increase over 2021. In fact, the last time 1 million vehicles were stolen was 2008. In Illinois alone, car theft rates are up 35%. We are still waiting on the final 2023 numbers, but things don’t look good. And I have two possible theories why.

Auto theft in progress as a man hacks a sedan.
Car thief | Auto Theft Up While All Other Crime Falls

My first theory is purely economic. New cars are incredibly expensive and getting more expensive every year. Shortages throughout the COVID-19 quarantines drove the prices of used cars up as well. According to conventional investment advice (your transportation budget should be 10% of your income), 82% of Americans can’t afford any new car.

I’m not for one instant suggesting that when cars get expensive, the average American just steals their neighbor’s. But when we keep our cars for longer the demand for parts increases and the theft/chop shop business begins to look like a better hustle.

My second theory is that it is becoming easier to steal cars. Throughout history, security and theft technology leapfrogs. Sometimes there are locks that can’t ever be picked, but for other periods nothing is safe. Over the past two decades, automakers may have been a bit overzealous computerizing every aspect of cars. The result was lots of cheap/primitive computers adding security loopholes. As thieves learn the vulnerabilities of specific models, they have even been sharing them to social media. This results in “trends” of certain types being stolen more often.

Next, read about how the “Kia Boys” are showing TikTok users how to steal cars, or watch a deep dive on rising car theft rates in the video below: