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Auto thefts surge in 2020, reversing two years of declines

Immobilizing devices such as starter, ignition, and fuel pump disablers, as well as wireless ignition authentication are among NICB recommendations to prevent theft

Des Plaines—Ill.—A preliminary analysis by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) shows auto theft took a dramatic leap upward in 2020 compared to 2019, reversing two years of auto theft declines.

According to its initial study, there were 873,080 auto thefts in 2020, a 9.2 percent increase over 2019 which had 799,644 thefts, a boost of more than 73,000 thefts.

“Preliminary reports indicate a sharp increase in automobile thefts for 2020,” said NICB President and CEO David Glawe. “All indications are 2020 will be the largest theft year in the past decade by a significant margin.”

According to the findings, every month in 2020 showed increases compared to 2019. Overall, the yearly increase was 9.2 percent, however each month from June through December showed double digit gains.

“Based on the preliminary nature of the data, the cause of this increase will require a thorough intelligence assessment,” Glawe said. “Considerations such as the pandemic, economic downturn, loss of juvenile outreach programs and public safety budgetary and resource limitations are likely contributing factors. Thieves exploit opportunities and may look for vehicles parked in the same location or citizens not taking proper measures to secure their vehicles.”

NICB recommends following four layers of protection:

  1. Common sense. Vehicle owners should always remove keys from the ignition, lock doors and windows, and park in well-lit areas.
  2. Warning devices. These include visible and audible alarms. Aftermarket alarms are available for all makes and models of cars. Visual devices include column collars, steering wheel locks, and brake locks.
  3. Immobilizing devices. The third layer of protection prevents thieves from bypassing the ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some examples are smart keys; fuse cut-offs; kill switches; starter, ignition, and fuel pump disablers; and wireless ignition authentication.
  4. Tracking devices. Tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles. Some systems combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of a vehicle. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner, and the vehicle can be tracked via computer.

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