New York City’s Surge in Car Thefts Baffles Experts

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Park Avenue, NYC. Photo by Andreas Komordromos via Flickr

Despite rates of automobile theft decreasing nationally over recent years, a striking increase in car theft in New York this year is baffling experts, reports City Limits.

“Auto theft has gone up since the beginning of the year,” says Christopher Herrmann, a crime analyst and an assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “We can’t really explain it.”

The borough of Brooklyn alone has had 200-and-counting car thefts this year, according to NYPD data.

Herrmann’s main theory correlates unemployment in the city– which has soared to over 20 percent since the COVID-19 outbreak– with the increase.

The phenomenon could be a result of the fact that “people…are hard up for money and willing to steal stuff and then obviously turn it into cash,” he suggests.

However, car thievery incidents had been climbing even before quarantine.

Kenichi Wilson, chair of Community Board Nine in Queens, claims that this year’s incidents in automobile theft only appear more striking because numbers in the previous year had been so low.

In comparing this year to last year, Queens has seen a nearly 200 percent jump in this specific type of crime.

“The majority of car thefts in Queens are due to cars being left running, to tell you the truth,” Wilson stated.

At the same time, since mid-March, New Yorkers started buying more cars, reports The New York Times.

Now, there’s a shortage, particularly in the city.

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles recorded a 39 percent increase over June and July this year in car registrations in New York’s five boroughs from the same time last year.

Tom McParland, the owner of Automatch Consulting– a business that helps guide first-time car buyers– also experienced this unusually upward trend in car sales to New Yorkers.

“The common theme [with customers],” McParland states, “is: ‘I don’t trust the safety of transit. I want my own transportation.’”

Whatever the cause, New York– a city that has largely depended on its public transportation system– is the lone outlier, as auto theft claims nationwide have been decreasing since the early 1980s.

Sarah Rose George is a TCR news reporting intern

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