Despite the poor economy, car theft in Baltimore is dropping, says Baltimore Sun crime beat reporter Peter Hermann. The number of cars stolen has gone from 6,662 in 2006 to 5,686 in 2007 to just over 5,100 last year. Through Jan. 10, car theft dropped 35 percent this year, compared with the same period in 2008. The trend is similar in Baltimore County. Baltimore County Police Sgt. Robert Jagoe said electronic transponders in keys, common since 2002, have virtually eliminated stealing cars for the sheer fun of it. The car’s ignition system must match a code on the key; hot-wiring doesn’t work on any but the older model cars, and while it’s possible to bypass the new safety systems, it can’t be done quickly or on the street.
The bad news is that armed carjackings are up. “They don’t know how to steal your car, but they can still put a gun to your head,” Jagoe said. The number of juveniles arrested on car theft charges in the city and county has dropped from a high of 311 in 1995 to 138 last year, while the number of adults arrested on the same charges has risen from 376 in 1995 to 772 in 2008. What’s left are professional car thieves who strip cars for parts or find ways to ship them to markets overseas. But just as the recession is hurting the legitimate car industry, it’s also hurting illegitimate sales.