Carjackings in Baltimore have more than tripled since 2013, and the number has continued to climb in the first weeks of 2017, at a rate that has far outpaced other auto thefts. Some other U.S. cities are also seeing increases, the Baltimore Sun reports. Law enforcement analysts see several reasons for the spike. Police in Baltimore note that the overwhelming majority of suspects are young men or juveniles, emboldened by the relative ease of the crime, and a belief that if they’re caught, the courts will not treat them harshly. Some see the increase as an unintended consequence of better antitheft security. Electronic key fobs and codes required to start newer-model cars have made them more difficult to steal — unless the driver is present.
It’s easier to resell a car that has been driven away with its keys than one that’s been hotwired, its windows smashed, and its steering column busted. In Baltimore, there were 402 carjackings last year, or little more than one a day in a city of 620,000. There were 5,161 auto thefts, or more than 14 per day. Still, those 402 carjackings were a 42 percent jump from the year before and a 224 percent leap from 2013. Auto thefts climbed 14 percent from 2013 to 2016. Researchers long have predicted a shift toward carjacking. “Stealing unoccupied cars has become increasingly difficult in recent years owing to improved anti-theft technology, and doing so can be both time-consuming and dangerous,” researchers from the University of Texas-Dallas, Georgia State and University of Missouri-St. Louis wrote in a 2003 study. “The car must be broken into and hot-wired, often to the accompaniment of a blaring alarm.”