New York City’s Increase in Automobile Thefts Puzzles Specialists – City Limits

11August 2020

‘Automobile theft since the start of the year has just kind of gone up and up and up,’ says one professional. ‘It is among the ones we can’t actually explain.’

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Adi Talwar Year-to-date, the 47th Precinct has the highest varieties of cars and truck thefts in the

Bronx. Considering that the start of the year, rates of reported cars and truck thefts in New York City have climbed by 60 percent– the biggest boost of any of the seven major felonies tracked by the NYPD, according to their weekly numbers. Though precincts throughout the city have seen boosts, the hotspots for theft in the city are concentrated in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens.

In Brooklyn, the 75th Precinct covering East New York and Broadway Junction leads the city in cars and truck thefts this year, at 200 and counting, according to NYPD data. Other locations, like the 70th Precinct covering Flatbush and Ditmas Park, have seen formerly low numbers increase substantially greater. Citizens reported 77 cars and truck thefts there up until now this year, up from just 14 this time in 2015, an increase of about 450 percent.

Nationally, rates of auto theft have been succumbing to the last couple of years, according to a report on 2019 stats launched by the National Insurance Coverage Criminal Offense Bureau (NICB).

NICB spokesperson Tully Lehman warns versus making sweeping declarations about the factors for this year’s boost in New York. The data, he says, is just too brand-new. “To get a great manage on what’s going on in 2020, you need to see what’s happening throughout the whole year rather of just taking one part of the year and stating ‘It’s because of X’,” says Lehman. “It might be economy, it might be weather, it might be a great deal of different things. However you just don’t have any sort of way available to nail it down to a specific element.”

Other major American cities aren’t necessarily seeing boosts in cars and truck theft on par with New York’s. While Philadelphia and Los Angeles have seen comparatively modest boosts of around 30 percent, Chicago has actually seen no substantial boost in taken vehicles, according to openly available data. Newark, traditionally a location for cars and truck theft, has actually seen just a 3 percent boost. And in Houston, vehicle theft crime has actually decreased somewhat from this time in 2015.

No clear answer, yet

Christopher Herrmann, crime expert and assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says that the numbers stand out– however echoed that it’s prematurely to state for sure what’s driving the uptick. “Automobile theft since the start of the year has just kind of gone up and up and up. It’s actually kind of crazy,” says Herrmann. “It is among the ones we can’t actually explain.”

He warns that in New York, where crime rates have dropped drastically since the mid-nineties, huge portion boosts can be deceptive. “New York has actually actually pressed the vehicle theft level down so low that any kind of little uptick is going to provide you that substantial number,” Herrmann says. In Manhattan, where the rates of grand larceny vehicle have remained low, large portion jumps don’t necessarily reflect big numbers– however cars and truck theft numbers have gone up in the majority of precincts compared to in 2015.

Citywide, year to date vehicle thefts are still 27 percent lower than they were over the exact same amount of time ten years back, when New York was already boasting that it was America’s safest large city.

While he highlights that it’s prematurely to show any of them definitively, Herrmann does have theories. “Greater unemployment rates mean more theft. We saw that with burglary too,” Herrmann says. “COVID hit and burglary started to increase.” He added that burglary and vehicle theft typically move in sync. “The 2 kind of used to work together,” he says. “It generally symbolizes individuals that are hard up for money and willing to steal stuff and then certainly attempt to turn it into cash.”

Joblessness in the city has actually skyrocketed to over 20 percent as private sector jobs have fallen by numerous thousands in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Herrmann says a case might be made that this economic interruption is at least partly sustaining the rise. “It’s all connected into that exact same story– individuals lose their jobs, they need money, they begin taking stuff, whatever it is,” he says.

However, cars and truck theft numbers began climbing even prior to the pandemic struck.

Herrmann also mentioned current reforms to the city’s bail system, along with early releases due to the threat of COVID-19 in jails, as possible factors. “Those cars and truck thieves that would have been doing time in prison, that would be a quite simple one to kick early,” says Herrmann. “It’s a residential or commercial property crime, so in theory there is less of a danger to the neighborhood.” Current reporting by the New York Post found no evidence that bail reforms and early releases due to COVID triggered any upticks in crime. The Post studied shooting occurrences up until now this year and found that very few individuals launched due to the reforms or the pandemic were involved in any violence.

Life in the hot spots

Kenichi Wilson, chair of Community Board 9 in Queens in the NYPD’s 102nd Precinct, says his location’s huge portion jump in vehicle theft numbers might look more substantial than it is because those numbers had formerly been so low. With 28 thefts this time in 2015, the precinct was one of the bottom 5 precincts in Queens for rates of vehicle theft. This year, 84 thefts were reported there as of July 26th— a 200 percent jump. Wilson added that such thefts may be criminal offenses of opportunity. “Most of cars and truck thefts in Queens are due to the vehicles being left running, to tell you the reality,” he says. He also kept in mind that his district borders Brooklyn’s 75th Precinct, which leads the city in purloined cars up until now this year.

Precinct Community 2020 thefts, year to date Increase over 2019, year to date
75th East New York City 202 39.30%
105th Queens Village 178 89.40%
113th Jamaica 123 78.30%
47th North Bronx 121 22.20%
67th East Flatbush 106 76.70%

Alfredo Figueroa, chair of the Public Safety Committee of Community Board 12 in the Bronx, says he hears a lot more about cars and truck burglaries than theft of whole vehicles. “Each time we have a community board conference or precinct council conference, that’s what individuals come and grumble about,” says Figueroa. His district falls under the 47th Precinct, which has the highest rates of vehicle theft in the district up until now this year.

The NYPD specifies grand larceny vehicle as the theft of an entire automobile. Thefts of parts of automobiles, or thefts of objects inside automobiles, are classified as petit larceny or grand larceny, according to an NYPD spokesperson. Home criminal offenses like vehicle theft and burglary have gone up this year, however grand larceny (omitting vehicle theft) went down by over 20 percent, according to NYPD data.

Longer trends

Matt Moore, vice president of the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an organization that studies vehicle-related insurance loss, says that vehicle theft claims nationwide have been reducing since the early eighties. He says that anti-theft devices and the rise of electronic commerce around automobile sales, combined with the imposition of VIN numbers on vehicles, made it much harder to steal and sell a vehicle.

“Long term, recalling in the mid 1980s, if we’re speaking about fairly brand-new vehicles, theft claim frequencies were in excess of 10 claims for each thousand automobiles guaranteed, whereas in more current years, state 2018, we’re just over one theft claim for each thousand insured automobiles,” says Moore. “So we’re speaking about huge drops here.”

He says that the vehicles thieves tend to choose are “effective or pricey, and the worst are both pricey and effective.” He says the Infiniti QX60 was one of the most taken vehicles in his latest data from in 2015, followed by the Dodge Charger.

“Grand theft vehicle is a serious crime,” Moore says. “So I don’t understand that there’s much sense in taking a vehicle that’s not successful.”


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