The annual number of vehicle thefts in the United States surpassed one million for the first time since 2008, according to an analysis released Wednesday.
The metric constitutes a 7% increase between 2021 and 2022, according to an analysis of National Crime Information Center data by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The entity noted that monthly theft totals exceeded 75,000 last year.
“We are seeing vehicle theft numbers that we haven’t seen in nearly 15 years, and there is very little deterrent to stop criminals from committing these acts as they are just property crimes, like shoplifting,” National Insurance Crime Bureau President and CEO David Glawe said in a statement. “We must reinvest in local law enforcement, provide the necessary resources for prosecution and community policing programs, and implement early intervention programs given the high incidence of juvenile offenders involved in vehicle thefts.”
The states with the highest number of car thefts were California and Texas, which saw 201,000 and 105,000 stolen vehicles, respectively, last year. The states with the fastest-growing numbers of thefts were Illinois, which saw a 35% increase, and Washington, which saw a 31% increase.
Thefts have particularly risen for certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles, which lack electronic immobilizers that prevent criminals from bypassing the ignition in cars manufactured by other companies. Viral social media videos have instructed young thieves on how to steal the vehicles, according to a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Increased levels of vehicle crimes in Washington and Illinois follow efforts from senior officials and lawmakers to decrease law enforcement activities, a phenomenon that followed the death of George Floyd in the spring of 2020 and the subsequent nationwide social justice movement.
Police officers in Washington are now required to use the “least amount of physical force necessary” during interactions with suspects under a statute signed by Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), while another new policy restricts when officers are permitted to engage in car chases. “We have a moral mandate to uproot systemic racism in our society. 2020 has yet again laid bare the cost of inaction,” said Inslee, who added that Washington should become “an anti-racist state.”
Illinois meanwhile eliminated cash bail two years ago under a law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL), who called the statute a “step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice.”
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Pritzker more recently asserted that “crime is coming down gradually” and defended the state’s reforms. “Violent criminals shouldn’t be let out on bail,” he said. “But when you’ve got somebody who committed a nonviolent offense and frankly would be kept in jail for months because they just don’t have a few hundred dollars, that’s not a justice system. That’s injustice.”
Increased crime has correlated with an exodus of businesses in both states. Food processing company Tyson, airplane manufacturer Boeing, hedge fund Citadel, and construction machinery firm Caterpillar have announced that they would shutter offices or move their headquarters from Chicago in recent months; e-commerce behemoth Amazon and restaurant chain Starbucks have closed locations or moved employees in response to rising crime in Seattle.