Americans are paying more, on average, for new and used vehicles than ever before, prompting the nation’s car thieves to continue their hard work.
New statistics from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, or NICB, reveal that auto theft has increased by 25% since 2019 and the theft of catalytic converters has increased by more than 1,200% over the same period. In fact, nearly 500,000 vehicles were stolen in America in the first half of 2022.
The NICB estimates that 100,000 more vehicles will have been stolen by the end of 2022 compared to pre-pandemic totals. The current total is nearly $4.5 billion worth of vehicles.
“There are very few deterrents to arresting these criminals because auto theft is a property crime,” said David Glawe, president and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
“Since the start of the pandemic, used car prices have increased by 35-40%. Criminals exploit these high prices because vehicle and catalytic converter thefts are crimes of opportunity. And crime is business, and business is good.
Reach new heights
The organization notes that the number of stolen vehicles is at its highest level since 2008 and that it does not see anything coming that can reverse the trend.
One of the reasons for the increase in the numbers are the “Kia Challenge.” Kia and Hyundai vehicles have risen to the top of ‘most stolen’ lists following a viral video posted on TikTok demonstrating how to break the steering column. Once broken, some models can be started using a USB device as a key.
Although limited to Kia products built between 2011 and 2021 and Hyundai vehicles from 2016 to 2021 that use a regular metal key to start the vehicle, it still offered plenty of opportunities for thieves.
Don’t forget the watches
While the Kia/Hyundai phenomenon contributed to the increase in the figures, thieves are still chasing the “usual suspects,as well, including full-size Chevy and Ford pickup trucks, the Honda Civic and Accord and more.
These vehicles are top sellers and with new vehicle inventories at historically low levels, these vehicles can bring a bounty to thieves. There is also a growing need for spare parts, whether body panels, engines or other components necessary for owners to keep their vehicles running, the NICB said previously.
What thieves target can vary from region to region, partly reflecting what people already own. The Dodge Charger was the most stolen vehicle in Michigan, with the Subaru Forester leading the thieves in Vermont and New Hampshire. The Honda Civic was the number one model in California, although third nationally.
Thieves don’t just sneak in and steal vehicles while the owner sleeps. Carjackings soared 160% to 500%, depending on the major city surveyed. It’s not just new vehicles that are attracting attention, the epidemic of catalytic converter thefts continues seemingly unabated. The NICB noted that they have increased by 1,215% since 2019.
“To end this lawlessness, we need to focus our attention on these criminals and take back our streets,” Glawe said. “We need to reinvest in our law enforcement.”