Credit: Kiera Smith/Crosstown.

Pandemic’s Other Toll: Record Number of Stolen Cars

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Note: This article first appeared on Crosstown and is shared with their permission in partnership with Los Angeleno. You can subscribe to Crosstown for crime, traffic and air quality news here.

The number of stolen vehicles surged by 35% in Los Angeles.

In the days immediately after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued the stay-at-home order last March, cars began disappearing from streets at a quickening pace.

In March, the number of vehicle thefts rose by 9% from a year earlier, to 1,504, according to Los Angeles Police Department data. By June, there were 2,142 stolen car reports, an 81% increase from the same period in 2019 and the highest monthly total the city had seen in over a decade.

By year’s end, 21,255 vehicles had been reported stolen in the City of Los Angeles, a 35% jump from 2019, also marking the highest record in over a decade.

The pandemic created unprecedented incentives for car thefts, including relaxed parking restrictions that allowed extended periods for streetside parking, and the elimination of bail requirements for low-level felonies and misdemeanors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in jails.

Some thieves appeared to have used stolen vehicles for transportation, as cars were recovered only blocks away. Other causes, including carelessness with key fobs, also contributed to the soaring car theft incidents, The New York Times reported.

Boyle HeightsDowntown and Van Nuys were the top three neighborhoods for car thefts in 2020, with 742, 705 and 617 incidents, respectively. This was the eighth consecutive year Boyle Heights experienced the most car thefts.

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Los Angeleno