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Nearly 30,000 cars were taken from their owners in Chicago last year, yet police efforts to catch the bandits reached record lows, one nonprofit says.
The number of vehicle thefts reported last year is the highest in 23 years, according to the Illinois Policy Institute. Not only did the arrest rate for car theft fall to 2.6%, but data collected through the Chicago Data Portal showed that it was the lowest level since the city started tracking crime online in 2001.
The Chicago Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the 29,063 motor vehicle thefts reported in 2023 amount to a 26% increase, Illinois Policy Institute states. The nonprofit says the number is more than triple what was reported prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019.
“During 2023, CPD worked alongside community partners from across the city to reduce violence and build trust throughout our neighborhoods,” Larry Snelling, who took over as the 64th police superintendent in September, said in a “2023 in Review” press release from earlier this month. “As we head into the new year, we will continue our efforts to build stronger bonds amongst our residents, support the victims of crime and protect all Chicagoans.”
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Chicago police officers in the West Englewood neighborhood. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Illinois Policy Institute believes the increase in car thefts may be attributed to a social media trend that details the ease of stealing Hyundais and Kias, which started in 2022.
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TikTok users are posting videos to teach people how to start vehicles without keys, prompting juveniles across the country to act. (St. Petersburg Police Department)
“There are some defects in manufacturing from a couple of manufacturers out there that are attributing to a lot of that and social media and word of mouth has gotten out there where you can overcome these defects with some, with very little practice and very quickly,” Lt. Adam Broshous, director of the Illinois Statewide Auto Theft Task Force, told CBS 2 News Chicago during an investigation last October.
The skyline of Chicago with Lake Michigan in the foreground, Oct. 16, 2022. (Vincent D. Johnson/Xinhua via Getty Images)
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Illinois Policy Institute’s report also blames the city’s “on-going police officer shortage” for not improving “the city’s chances of catching offenders,” citing Mayor Brandon Johnson’s 2024 budget that eliminated 833 police positions.