By on July 23, 2020

Los Angeles car thefts hit record highs in the second quarter of 2020, with some claiming the matter is the direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite LA being infamous for car crime, the general trend over the last decade was a downward one — until very recently. A report from the USC Annenberg School for Journalism’s non-profit analysis publication Crosstown analyzed data from the Los Angeles Police Department, citing a 57.7-percent uptick in vehicle theft between April and June against the same period in 2019.

COVID-19 was theorized to have only been part of the problem. While the study notes that lockdown measures meant more vehicles sitting around unattended for longer periods of time, making them tempting targets for thieves, it also references the California Judicial Council’s passing of new zero-dollar bail policy as a contributing factor. Enacted in April, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said the measure was taken so courts could set individual bail for those accused of looting. Meanwhile, most non-violent crimes (and some low-level felonies) are supposed to be bail-free, allowing jail populations to be kept at a minimum during the pandemic.

The city also stopped ticketing for parking violations, leaving ample opportunity for cars to enjoy prolonged curbside stays while everyone works from home.

“People are seeing that they’re not going to stay in jail, especially for car theft,” said LAPD Lieutenant Siage Hosea, who works on the Task Force for Regional Autotheft Protection. “So what’s happening is we are seeing repeat offenders.”

From Crosstown:

The spike coincides with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic. Although crime in general has decreased since mid-March, when schools were closed and businesses were shuttered in the effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, vehicle thefts have spiked. As Crosstown reported last month, April saw a 31 [percent] jump in car thefts, and the numbers have only climbed since then.

It’s a stark contrast to the first quarter of the year, which registered only a slight increase over January-March of 2019. Yet in June, there were 2,055 vehicles stolen, nearly double the 1,167 reported in the same month last year. There were more auto thefts between April-June than during any quarter since the LAPD began making its data public over a decade ago.

You’d probably be surprised to hear that crime is down in La-La-Land overall, yet that’s exactly what the LAPD reported this week; statistics show a 8.5-percent drop in overall crime during the first 6 months of 2020 versus the same period in 2019. Some say this paints a confusing picture when police data also shows that car thefts, murders and hate crimes are all up by a significant amount, suggesting minor incidents are simply being ignored.

If there is a silver lining to this, it’s that most of the crimes seem to be opportunistic in nature. Rather than parting these vehicles out for profit, never to be seen again, many criminals seem to be engaging in joyriding. A lot of these stolen vehicles are recovered days later, according to Lt. Hosea — frequently damaged, but mostly intact.

[Image: Daniel Jedzura/Shutterstock]

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53 Comments on “Los Angeles Car Crime Reaches Record High...”


  • avatar
    hreardon

    Wait, you’re saying that when people are out of work, combined with a completely demoralized police force, that bad actors take advantage of the situation and commit more crime? Say it ain’t so….

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Less people moving around means less “surveillance” therefore thieves can move around more easily.
    An 8.5% overall drop is most likely due to less home break and enters. My town reported less residential B&E’s. There was an increase in commercial B&E’s due to many businesses being idled by COVID-19 but most commercial properties have alarm systems so property losses hasn’t been a big issue.

    Looks like some fear mongering and speculation lead to the statement, “Some say this paints a confusing picture when police data also shows that car thefts, murders and hate crimes are all up by a significant amount, suggesting minor incidents are simply being ignored.”

    Lazy journalism going on:

    1st 6 months of 2019 there were 129 murders. First 6 months or 2020 :136 murders. That hardly constitutes a huge jump. Forcing people to “shelter in place” probably accounts for that difference assuming it is considered statistically significant.
    There was a 6% jump in hate crimes in the 1st 6 months of the year. Blacks and Asians were the primary targets. Irresponsible political commentary on COVID-19 could be viewed as contributory. LA has seen a 54% increase in hate crime since 2015. That does correlate with the current reign of the Psycho-in-chief.

    At least no one was called a “Karen” or “Kevin”.

    • 0 avatar
      Mackey

      So a 5.43% increase in murders “hardly constitutes a jump”, but 6% is somehow not only significant, but also clearly attributable to Trump? Really sucking in that gut to make those jeans fit.

      Also, remember that a hate crime is not a specific action, but an enhanced added to an action at the discretion of prosecutors, and open to a growing scope of interpretation. But sure- let’s pin it on the orange man across the country so that we don’t need to do any critical thought or even have to look within local circumstances to see what could be going wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Mackey – you missed the part about the 54% increase in hate crime since 2015. The 6% is just a continuation of that trend.

        Los Angeles murder rates fluctuate. That’s why the 5.43% death rate, although tragic isn’t part of an overall trend upward. The trend has been downward for murder.

        Close quarters “shelter in place” in many jurisdictions has been associated with an increase in murders. I’ve often seen an increase in assaults around Christmas due to people who normally cannot tolerate each other for 364 days a year trying to tolerate a day together. It typically does not end well.

        • 0 avatar
          Mackey

          I’m OK with many of your points and likely miscommunicated the point I was making (which was that you were diminishing one metric while highlighting another, of similar shifts). My apologies, and I understand what your motives were- to highlight the continued growth.

          My main concern was that all to often we see arguments boiled down to a convenient outcome that fits a narrative. Correlation does not equal causation, and even in this instance, Trump didn’t become ‘psycho in chief’ until early 2017. Even then, his is only one voice in the discourse, not to mention the fact that there are MANY other factors that need to be considered just with the processes of defining a ‘hate crime’ for statistical use. Who was it against? Is it based on charges or convictions? Is it being applied and measured consistently across all jurisdictions? What changes have occurred in current and historical definitions and rules to adjust for ‘inflation’ should a more or less broadly scoped net be cast starting on date X? I could go on…

          All I’m saying is, what good does it do to try to pin it on the president, bypassing every other leader (family or civic) between the actor and the president.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Mackey – well said and true, I shouldn’t be pinning it all on Trump. With that being said there is plenty of evidence linking Trump to increased hate crime. There have been massive spikes in cities post political Trump rally. His tenure also coincided with a marked increases. Violence against Asians also have shown an increase.

            Even when you step away from “hate crime” and look at the divide between wearing a mask or “freedom” fighters.
            The USA has seen a massive problem with this. Canada on the other hand has minimal issue with it.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Mackey – well said and true, I shouldn’t be pinning it all on Trump. With that being said there is plenty of evidence linking Trump to increased hate crime. There have been massive spikes in cities post political Trump rally. His tenure also coincided with a marked increases. Violence against Asians also have shown an increase.

            Even when you step away from “hate crime” and look at the divide between wearing a mask or “freedom” fighters.
            The USA has seen a massive problem with this. Canada on the other hand has minimal issue with it.

    • 0 avatar
      Mackey

      So a 5.43% increase in murders “hardly constitutes a jump”, but 6% is somehow not only significant, but also clearly attributable to Trump? Really sucking in that gut to make those jeans fit.

      Also, remember that a hate crime is not a specific action, but an enhanced added to an action at the discretion of prosecutors, and open to a growing scope of interpretation. But sure- let’s pin it on the orange man across the country so that we don’t need to do any critical thought or even have to look within local circumstances to see what could be going wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      The terminology is off. It’s a 54% increase in crimes being called “hate crimes”.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    “it also references the California Judicial Council’s passing of new zero-dollar bail policy as a contributing factor.”

    Gee, ya think?

    “Unintended consequences” my foot. Full intentional consequences, if you ask me.

    Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    When times get tough, rip people off – hey, the car companies do it!

  • avatar
    Deontologist

    0 dollar bail sounds like something a woman’s studies major in a community college dreamed up after a single elective class on criminology.

    The only way to solve this problem is not allowing bail except for white collar crime. Stay in jail until your trial is over.

    And triple all the sentencing guidelines. Turn the usual 6 months in jail for a misdemeanor to 18 months, minimum.

    And more cops in the street. And more expansive qualified immunity. Cops should be able to shoot without worry. The article doesn’t mention it, but low morale among our fine officers in this country thanks to both political and mob pressure has led to less effective policing. No one wants to be hauled to jail because they were trying to stop a robbery and in the process, they discharged their gun on a career criminal who somehow gets dolled up by the media as an upstanding member of society. Too many thugs, too many bleeding hearts, not enough getting tough on crime.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Deontologist – Donald… Donald… is that you?

      Another clueless diatribe on how to solve social problems of which many crimes are just another symptom.

      All those protests across the country, I’m sure you have zero idea as to why they are protesting?

      “not allowing bail except for white collar crime.”

      Corporate executives can cause a “2018” and walk away with billions in their pockets. Yeah, right.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Lou and Golden, despite Deontologist’s screed, he’s right on his broader point. California has been releasing felons early for years and COVID was simply the latest chapter of the story.

      It’s one thing to release those incarcerated on misdemeanor drug user charges that got caught up in a system that badly needs reform. It’s another to let convicts with a history of violence out early. Unfortunately, the state has been less than transparent on this matter causing many of us to wonder how much care they’re taking.

      As for prosecuting criminal activity, LA has already reclassified any crime less than $1k to be a misdemeanor. Break into a car, steal a stereo or a backpack and it’s less than a grand. Misdemeanor. Brilliant, eh? That move also means they get to pad those crime stats. Wow, look at the reduction in felonies!

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @jkross22 – I agree that releasing felons is an issue. Once a person becomes “hardened” then you don’t have much choice.

        But if you can prevent that from happening, in the long run is a better solution.

        The rest of his BS is why I’m no longer on the conservative side of the ideological spectrum. There was a time when I believed the same stuff as he did. The difference between him and I is the fact that I’ve spent a large part of my life on “the front lines” as a health care professional. You see rather quickly that a militarized police response and incarceration without tackling the root causes doesn’t work. I had to face the cognitive dissonance head on. It was a choice between bitter burnout or realizing that my ideology was flawed. That’s why I’m a left leaning centrist moderate that doesn’t have an issue with accepting ideas from both sides of the political spectrum.

        You need a blend of psychosocial and law enforcement measures. In my town they have paired psychiatric nurses with police officers in specialized “units” which works very well. A large percentage of addicts/street people have mental health problems. Add to that vulnerable youth from severely dysfunctional/broken family structures.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        For the record, I am opposed to the release of most of the people from incarceration because of the pandemic. One certainly could look at this from several views – if they could be let go now safely, why were they locked up to begin with? Or, why would you let someone go who was found guilty? I feel that taking people who were incarcerated and releasing them en masse is a recipe for disaster. The idea that we have a “Corrections” Department is ludicrous. Most of the time incarceration just hardens them into worse people, not better. If someone wanted to argue that there has to be a better way to address the issue of crime, that would have merit. But opening the doors? Nope.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Then police should be held to a higher standard. They have the guns, they wield justice and they need to be held accountable, without exception. Fact is, they haven’t been. Blaming the victim is not the answer, and it’s not a new idea by the way. You’re spewing white privilege and that is a large part of the problem.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        It’s almost like in their infinite wisdom the framers installed some mechanism by which those in authority were not the only ones to “have the guns”. If only I guess. Too bad “The Framers” are out of favor now and any ideas they had are to be viewed with skepticism and most of the people screaming the loudest want said guns out of the hands of people not the Police. What a crazy world.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Cops have gone to war against the citizens. It started right after “9-ll” and they’ve become robotic incarcerators, rights violators and dog killers.

    • 0 avatar
      Hydromatic

      @Deontologist If you, the taxpayer, are willing to shoulder the extra costs of increased police funding, new correctional facilities and increased incarceration, then go for it. Ain’t no such thing as getting “tough on crime” for free.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      cops should NOT be able to “shoot without worry”.

      they really need to think every time they unholster their gun, if they are ready to take a life right now.

      but they dont. THAT is the problem.

  • avatar
    brn

    Record high? I want to see trend-lines for the last 50 years.

    Auto theft has been on a decline for the last 20 years. Cars are harder to steal. Cars are easier to locate and recover. There are more cameras than ever before.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Some of us remember peak 1980’s car theft. GM and some Ford steering columns were fairly easy to break into and hot wire or just use a screwdriver to start. Many people purchased the armor reinforcement collar.
      Before radio codes were common place the removable radio faceplate or box became the norm. A Cadillac dealer would have the bumpers tack welded to the shock absorbers so they were harder to remove.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        One medium flathead screw driver was all you needed to break into (punch a hole right below the handle) and start (insert and force) a VW.

        Ah, the good old days.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          But would it start? That was the real question.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            ? are you kidding ?! .

            Those A1 chassis VW’s often started up on their own after rain water ran down the antenna cable and dribbled into the fuse box….

            I had a couple of Rabbit rag tops and while they were fun cars, they struck me as being cheaper than the Beetles they replaced .

            -Nate

  • avatar

    If you want to see the future come to California. California is blazing the trail to a better future.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    You can’t sat that, it’s racist.
    :-/

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I’ll bet car thieves are stalking restaurants for victims leaving their cars running or forget the keys in it.

    Otherwise there’s still lots of ’80s to 2000 cars running around LA that obviously don’t take a laptop, scanner, etc, to steal.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I had a 1987 Nissan Stanza hand-me-down from my dad. This thing was cherry with only (a lot of) highway miles on it since he traveled roughly 40k miles a year for business.

    Well one day I decided to back out of my apartment parking spot so my GF could put her car there. It was a hot day so I had the door open a crack as I moved it back. The corner of the door stuck on the nearby fence, wrenching the door wider than the hinges went. Also dented the quarter panel doing it.

    I spent the next year or two parking in ways – when visiting home – so my dad wouldn’t see the damage. One time I stood right in front of the dent until he walked by and got in at the passenger side.

    That same vehicle, a few years later, had the hood pop open, wrap over the roof, and break the sunroof wind breaker (or whatever it is called). My GF-soon-to-be-wife was driving. Drove off the next exit. I found some plastic strips, the kind used for wrapping newspapers, and tied the hood down so we could limp home via the back roads. I then straightened the hood by first removing it, laying it on the ground and then walking over it with a pair of army boots! Bungee cord kept the hood strapped down.

    It remained a beater car for a few more months before being sold to a friend of a friend who needed cheap wheels after a DUI. And the bungee cord apparently busted, making the hood fly up again, this time smashing the windshield. The car was finally put to rest with over 210k miles on the clock.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Third hand story circa 1970. A couple of friends told me about the Lamborghini Miura they came across at a rest stop on the way to the June Sprints at Road America. When they made complimentary noises about the car, the owner advised them to look at the other side. The sheet metal was wrinkled all the way from front to rear. A Cadillac driver had changed lanes without looking. I could imagine his insurance agent exclaiming, “You hit a WHAT?!!!”

    My wife is a professional musician who plays mostly classical music on her violin. In the mid 1980s, we had enough spare change for her to buy a good instrument. A high end dealer in Saint Louis sent us several candidates which we hauled to her mother’s (also a violinist) for second opinions. All the way there, I kept thinking, “I hope we don’t get hit. We’re driving a rusty Datsun 810 worth 1% of the fiddles in the back seat.”

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