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The Surge in Vehicle Theft and How Agencies are Battling Back

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To say motor vehicle theft is a nationwide problem is an understatement.

Take a second to absorb these shocking statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding motor vehicle theft. 

In 2022 alone:

  • More than 1 million vehicles were stolen in the United States. 
  • A motor vehicle was stolen every 32 seconds.
  • The cost for vehicle owners totaled more than $8 billion.

So how are we doing so far this year? Still not good.

According to a study by the Council on Criminal Justice, motor vehicle thefts continued to increase through the first half of the year. In fact, there were 33.5% more motor vehicle thefts, on average, than there were in the first half of 2022. 

Compared to 2019, it's even worse: Auto theft is up 104% during the same time period.

Vehicle theft by cities in 2023

If you drill down by location in the same study, you'll see that certain cities saw an increase of 100% or more during the first six months of 2023 compared to January through June of 2019. The cities with the biggest rises include:

  • Rochester (355% rise)
  • Cincinnati (162%)
  • Buffalo (135%)
  • Chicago (130%)
  • Memphis (120%)
  • Washington (116%)
  • Durham (107%)

How to address vehicle theft in your area

Whether or not you're in one of those cities, there's a high probability that you, too, are dealing with an increase in this specific type of crime. Need a few new strategies and tools you can employ to help prevent auto theft and recover stolen vehicles?

Here's what some cities are doing:

  • In addition to creating a new unit within its auto crime division, New York City is also distributing 500 Apple AirTags for car owners to hide in their vehicles. That way, they can track their car in real time should it ever be stolen.

  • New Jersey State Police is heading up an auto theft task force alongside  local departments. In an interview with ABC 7, New Jersey State Police Detective Sergeant Cory Rodriguez said, "There's never been more collaboration or information sharing in the history of auto theft investigations than there is right now and we continuously get better."

  • In response to a viral challenge on TikTok that led to a surge in Kia and Hyundai thefts across the nation, many police departments, like the ones in Hartford, Chicagoand Prince George's County, are giving out steering wheel locks to residents with those vehicles.

It remains to be seen how effective these various strategies are, but we do know one of the single best ways to deter thefts and recover stolen vehicles as quickly and as efficiently possible: Automated license plate recognition (ALPR) technology.

Here at Leonardo, our plate readers have become the gold standard in the industry—with options that read plates day or night, in all weather conditions, and from all 50 U.S. states, as well as most foreign countries.  

Not sure where to start? Check out the ELSAG® Street Sentry™, our newest solar-powered LPR system. It's easy to set up and surprisingly affordable.