Car Thefts Are on the Rise and You Can Blame It on Key Fobs and Forgetful Owners

I wouldn’t call myself a great car owner. Why? Because I’ve got some pretty bad habits. One of them? Leaving my key fob in my car. Really, if you see my car in a parking lot, there’s a good chance that I left my key fob somewhere in, around, or even under the front seat. I know. It’s a problem. But the first step to remedying a problem is to actually admit that you have a problem.

But, here’s the thing. I’ve been doing this for years. So, it wasn’t until I learned car theft is on the rise that I really sat down and thought about it. Maybe leaving my key fob in my car at all times isn’t such a good idea after all. 

A Bentley key fob in someone's hand
A key fob for a Bentley Centenary Specification | John Keeble/Getty Images

Car thieves are taking advantage of sloppy car owners

Once upon a time, car thieves needed one of two things to steal a car: they either needed a set of keys, or they needed to know how to hot wire a car. These days? They just need a key fob and, according to The New York Times, plenty of car thieves are using that to their advantage.

According to The New York Times, law enforcement told them that the latest rise in car thefts can be attributed to a combination of that technological advancement and, of course, careless car owners such as myself. Leave your key fob in your cupholder, and The New York Times says you’re really putting yourself at risk these days.

“This is a very stupid problem to have,” a Hartford Police Department official told reporters after five stolen cars were recovered in the city, and 12 people were arrested. “The technology that was created specifically to eliminate car thefts, such as key fob technology, is now being used against us.”

RELATED: What Is the Most Stolen Car in America?

Unfortunately, the pandemic hasn’t helped curb car thefts 

The pandemic has only made things easier for car thieves too. Deputy Inspector Jessica E. Corey of the New York Police Department’s Crime Prevention Division told The New York Times that many car theft victims are delivery drivers making drop-offs to those staying home amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Many drivers leave their key fob behind when making a delivery and by the time they’ve returned, poof! Their car is gone.

But not all victims are delivery drivers. On July 11, Zach Sobel left his car running outside of a store in Sunset Park. Because Sobel had his French bulldog in tow, he left the vehicle’s air-conditioner on to keep the pup cool. He then pocketed his key fob and went into the shop. Unfortunately, Sobel left his second key fob in the car. While the car was stolen, police officers recovered it and Sobel’s beloved dog about four hours later in Manhattan.

“What still haunts me to this day is I can’t imagine what it was like for him and how scared he must have been,” said Sobel after the car theft.

RELATED: Counterfeit Car Parts Makers Impair Driver and Occupant Safety

Car thefts are preventable, so start keeping track of that key fob

Car thefts have been trending downward since the 1990’s. That was, of course, until last year. Between June and December 2020, monthly car thefts increased 13% in comparison to the same period in 2019, according to data gathered from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. 

“The numbers are quite staggering,” said David J. Glawe, the president and chief executive of the National Insurance Crime Bureau told The New York Times. “Key fobs were initially thought to be a proactive security measure,” Glawe continued. “People have let their guards down with their vehicles.”

RELATED: Stolen $1 Million Ferrari F40 Accidentally Found in Japan

Fortunately, keeping track of your key fob can help prevent your car from being stolen. Rather than leaving it behind or keeping your spare key fob tucked away in your car, try keeping it on you every time that you leave your car behind. I know I will.