By GLENN MINNIS
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — The city of Chicago easily outpaced the rest of the country as the fastest growing city for auto thefts in 2022 with larcenies rising by 55%.
With such acts of vandalism on the rise across the country as part of an ongoing pandemic-fueled outbreak, a new National Insurance Crime Bureau annual study found Illinois had the largest percentage increase among larger states at 35%.
“Over one million vehicles were stolen nationwide in 2022,” NCIB President and CEO David Glawe told The Center Square. “States that saw the largest increase in vehicle thefts were Illinois, Washington and New York.
“There is little deterrence with vehicle thefts treated as property crimes. Organized gangs and juveniles steal vehicles and use them to facilitate other crimes. To stop this lawless behavior, we must re-invest in our law enforcement partners, support community engagement and policing programs and implement successful early intervention programs for at-risk youth.”
Across the country, thefts were up 7%, pushing the number of stolen vehicles over 1 million for the first time in more than 15 years. Overall, including carjackings, Chicago had 21,516 reported auto thefts over the year, up by nearly 8,000 from 13,856 the previous year.
As part of its campaign to stem the tide, the Chicago Police Department over the past several months has instituted an expanded vehicular hijacking task force. Through February, there were 232 reported carjackings across the city this year, a 23% decline over the same period in 2022.
At the same time, overall motor vehicle thefts are sharply up over the first two-plus months of this year, with 5,375 reports of stolen vehicles through March 5 — a 138% increase, according to Chicago Police Department crime statistics.
“Vehicle crime is certainly still a major issue across the nation, and while there are many reasons for this, NICB data does not point to one specific reason,” staffers at the Des Plaines, Ill.-based organization added. “We know that criminals steal vehicles to commit other crimes, sometimes vehicles end up in chop shops, get shipped overseas, or cross the border into Mexico.”
Mr. Glawe added at least part of the epidemic can be traced to supply chain issues that have made used cars more valuable and the job of upkeep for them more costly.
Over the last 36 months alone, catalytic converter thefts have jumped by 1,200%.
And a recent study by online auto search site iSeeCars details that in Illinois, the average price of a used car now tops $35,000.
In January, the Chicago Police Department began hosting vehicle safety events, where the department passed out steering wheel locks for Kia and Hyundai vehicles as part of a plan aimed at making it easier to identify catalytic converters, which makes them harder to resell.