Car Theft In Downtown LA Is Up 300 Percent Over Ten Years

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Although the number of car thefts has been on the decline in the past two years, Los Angeles is still on pace to record 45% more stolen cars in 2023 than in the year before the pandemic started.

Debbie McClung holds the Club Steering Wheel Lock for her 2017 Kia Sportage at her home in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. McClung said the car had been stolen twice.
Image: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post (Getty Images)

Downtown Los Angeles experienced the highest spike in vehicle theft over the past ten years in comparison to all other bureaus of the city, up more than 300 percent when compared to 2013. Obviously a lot has happened over the last 10 years, including that whole global pandemic that thrust millions into instability, and vehicle theft is actually down compared to those pandemic years, and violent crimes are actually down, too.

Debbie McClung holds the Club Steering Wheel Lock for her 2017 Kia Sportage at her home in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. McClung said the car had been stolen twice.

The central division of the Los Angeles Police Department which covers areas like DTLA, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and Skid Row. Skid Row accounts for the majority of all crime in this division according to Paul Vernon, a former LAPD commanding officer of the crime analysis division, and former 10-year detective lieutenant in the central division. The Los Angeles Times reports,

A Times analysis of vehicle theft data in Los Angeles from 2013 to 2023 confirmed that vehicle thefts are most prevalent in higher-crime areas of the city, even though violent crime has dropped in those areas. The data also showed that the rate of car theft around downtown Los Angeles has quadrupled over the past 10 years. The information analyzed by The Times included data on stolen passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, motorcycles, and scooters.

Unsurprisingly Kias and Hyundais are the most-stolen vehicles in Los Angeles, thanks in part to the TikTok trend that showed how easy it is to steal these makes, and also thanks to the manufacturers who did not equip its vehicles with immobilizer devices. Kias and Hyundais that are not equipped with push-button start do not have immobilizers and are thus an easy target for thieves. Twenty percent of all vehicles stolen in Los Angeles in 2022 were Hyundais and Kias, but Kia thefts in Los Angeles’ South Bureau are up 57 percent this year over last while Hyundai thefts only went up 27 percent.

Offenders can be cited to court, but there is no guarantee they will show up to court, and often they are simply released, Vernon said. And with approximately 10% of vehicle theft suspects making up 50% to 60% of all vehicle thefts, Vernon estimates, reducing vehicle theft is virtually impossible if law enforcement cannot keep repeated offenders accountable, he said.