There’s been an uptick in car burglaries and auto thefts as Americans shelter in place

A black vehicle with an open door in side of the road. Image taken during

A black vehicle with an open door in side of the road. Image taken during summer. The driver is needing for help or giving assistance for example. cardooropenabandonedincidentvehiclebackgroundfrontskywhiteasphaltassistanceautobeautifulblackblueemergencyhappenhelplookingnatureoneoutdoorparkroadroadsidesceneryseatsidestolenstopsummertraveltripwheelwindowShow more
A black vehicle with an open door in side of the road. Image taken during summer. The driver is needing for help or giving assistance for example. cardooropenabandonedincidentvehiclebackgroundfrontskywhiteasphaltassistanceautobeautifulblackblueemergencyhappenhelplookingnatureoneoutdoorparkroadroadsidesceneryseatsidestolenstopsummertraveltripwheelwindowShow more

Shutterstock / Jne Valokuvaus

  • Some cities are seeing an increase in car-related crimes as Americans use their cars less. 

  • In one case, Seattle police returned a car to an owner who didn’t even know it’d been stolen. 

  • New York City and Los Angeles have seen upticks in auto larceny of 67% and 17%, respectively. 

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Americans are driving far fewer miles than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic. That’s been great news for the environment, and the air is the cleanest in some places it’s been in decades.

But there’s a trade-off: a spike in automotive-related crimes.

“You might as well put a sticker on the window that says ‘come take my stuff,'” Alex Villanueva, the Los Angeles County sheriff, told NBC News, which first reported on the increase in car theft and burglary. In LA, vehicle larceny is up 17% since the start of the year compared to 2019. And in New York, it’s risen 67%.

Crime usually rises in-step with the springs’ thaw, but the auto-larceny uptick is notable given a decrease in overall crime. And with most American cities still under some form of shelter-in-place order, the coronavirus might not be finding ideal situations to spread, but car thieves are finding empty cars that don’t move much these days. That means they’re easy prey.

NYPD auto larceny stats
NYPD auto larceny stats

NYPD

In Seattle, cops located and returned a stolen car to its owner who didn’t even know it had been stolen, according to CNN.

“With the stay home order, people aren’t driving their cars and don’t realize they’ve been stolen,” a Seattle officer said.

Other cities, like Dallas, have been lucky so far. The North Texas city saw a 20% a drop in stolen cars from March to April, but Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall says her department is ready should that trend change to match peers like Austin, which has also seen an uptick since the pandemic began.

“For any criminal taking this opportunity to believe that you will be successful committing crimes in this city, I have a message for you: We’re coming for you. We’re looking for you. We are waiting on you,” she said in a video statement in March.

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