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More Cars Are Being Stolen During The Pandemic

Four cars are parked near a tall painted brick wall. The word PARKING is in giant letters on the wall. The "ING" part of "PARKING" is faint and faded away. There is street art of a girl swinging from the letter "A."
Street graffiti art is seen on a wall in a parking lot in downtown Los Angeles, May 1 2012.
(Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
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Law enforcement leaders have expressed pleasant surprise at a significant drop in crime during the pandemic. Both violent and property crime are down as much as 10% across L.A. County. Analysts say stay-at-home orders mean people are less likely to be victims or perpetrators.

The exception is motor vehicle thefts, which have increased dramatically. Auto thefts are up nearly 17% compared with last year in areas patrolled by the LAPD. The Sheriff’s Department, which patrols unincorporated areas and 42 cities (including Compton, West Hollywood and Lancaster), reports a 27% increase.

There are various theories about the jump. “The pandemic is changing people’s patterns,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. “You have a lot more people at home, and a lot of vehicles that are parked out of sight.” That makes it easier for thieves to snatch the car, the sheriff hypothesized.

There are some other theories. One is that people are more desperate right now, given the economic crisis. Another is that those released from local jails because of COVID-19 may have included some car thieves. A third is that boredom is driving people to grab a car for a joyride.

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Some of the hardest-hit areas include Hollywood, with a nearly 47% spike, and the area that stretches from Venice to LAX, which has seen a 44% jump in car thefts.


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