The Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) has recently published its midyear update on crime trends in American cities. While there is overall good news regarding crime rates, car owners must be more vigilant than ever before.
Alarming Increase in Auto Theft
According to the CCJ’s report, motor vehicle theft has experienced a significant surge. In the first six months of 2023, car thefts were 33.5% higher compared to the same period in 2022.
Limited Scope, Informative Insights
It is important to note that the CCJ’s analysis focuses on 37 U.S. cities, which were selected based on data availability rather than representing the entire nation or being chosen by size. Nevertheless, the report provides valuable insights into crime trends.
Returning to Pre-Pandemic Levels
While some offenses in the sample cities are returning to pre-pandemic levels, motor vehicle thefts stand out as an exception. The report highlights that the average monthly motor vehicle theft rate exhibited cyclicality from January 2018 to March 2020. However, in the first half of this year, it rose significantly by over a third.
Causes of Increase in Motor Vehicle Theft
The CCJ suggests that a substantial portion of this increase can be attributed to thefts involving Kia and Hyundai models. However, it is important to note that the rise in theft rates began before these vehicles became popular targets.
These findings serve as a cautionary reminder for car owners to remain vigilant and take necessary precautions to safeguard their vehicles.
Hyundai, Kia Theft Trend Partly to Blame
Certain older Hyundai and Kia vehicles lack an engine immobilizer, making them vulnerable to theft. Online videos posted in late 2021 showcased how thieves could start these vehicles using just a screwdriver and a USB cable.
According to a 2022 insurance industry report, loss claims for Hyundai and Kia models from those years were nearly twice as common compared to claims for vehicles made by any other manufacturer.
Some major insurance companies have started declining coverage for specific models in certain states due to the high theft risk, causing actuarial calculations to be thrown off.
To combat this issue, both Hyundai and Kia offer software updates that make it more difficult to steal the cars. Although these updates don’t add an immobilizer, they replicate its presence by only allowing the vehicle to start after it has been unlocked using the keyfob. Additionally, both companies provide free steering wheel locks for police departments to distribute to owners.
However, despite these efforts, 18 state attorneys general have asked the federal government to issue a recall for these cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not yet forced a recall, as recalls are typically reserved for safety threats. Hyundai has recently been testing mobile software update clinics as a means of addressing this issue.
In response to a class-action lawsuit, both companies agreed to settle for $200 million to resolve the theft-related claims.