LOS ANGELES — The pandemic has left a lot of people with extra time on their hands, including thieves. More vehicles are being stolen and burglarized, according to new data from the Auto Club of Southern California.
In Los Angeles County, 24,850 vehicles were stolen during the first six months of the year – a 22 percent increase compared with the year prior.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reports that 19 of its 24 stations have seen increases in grand theft auto, which, in California, is defined as the unauthorized taking of another person's car by force, trick, or false pretenses with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the car. Fifteen of those stations have seen double-digit increases.
Summer is already peak season for car thefts, but the pandemic is contributing to the current uptick. Law enforcement officials say the spike is due to many drivers being home and not using, or checking, their vehicles as often as they would normally, giving criminals opportunity.
Older Hondas, from the 1990s to early 2000s, are especially popular among car thieves. The 2000 model year Honda Civic is the most stolen car in the country, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s most recent Hot Wheels report. Rounding out the top five are the 1997 Honda Accord, 2006 Ford full-size pickup, 2004 Chevrolet full-size pickup, and the 2017 Toyota Camry.
“In many instances, drivers leave their doors unlocked, as well as their keys and valuables in the car, which invites criminals who are taking advantage of the situation we're all in right now,” said Claudia Rodriguez, the Auto Club’s vice president of claims.
California ranks first of all states when it comes to auto crimes involving drivers who’ve left their keys or key fobs inside their vehicles, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Auto Club says vehicle owners can prevent thieves from stealing their vehicles by always locking their vehicles with the windows closed, never leaving keys inside their vehicles even at a gas station or at home, and never leaving the vehicle running when the driver is not inside.