New York

As Car Thefts Soar, N.Y.P.D. Targets Teenage Thieves

The Police Department will designate one patrol car in each of New York City’s 77 precincts to trace stolen vehicles, as car theft continues to rise even as the rate of most other major crimes in the city is falling.

Car thefts were up about 25 percent in August compared with the same month last year, officials said Wednesday. In total, about 10,600 cars have been stolen this year across the five boroughs, an increase from about 9,000 during the same time last year, according to police data.

Officials blamed the increase on TikTok videos showing how to steal Kias and Hyundais, the models that are stolen in close to a fifth of the thefts. Many videos give step-by-step instructions on how to start the cars without a key.

About half of those arrested in car thefts in the past year have been under the age of 18, Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference in Queens on Wednesday.

In New York, most major crimes have been trending down this year. Shootings and murders, which had surged at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, are down by 26 percent and about 10 percent, compared with the same time in 2022. Rapes, robberies and burglaries are also down. But stolen cars continue to vex drivers and the police alike.

“This is a deep issue,” Philip Banks III, the deputy mayor for public safety, said at the news conference. “We’re treating it with the utmost respect.”

Officers will be out in the new patrol cars 24 hours a day, seven days a week, officials said. The cars will be equipped with license plate readers and other technology to flag stolen vehicles, Edward Caban, the police commissioner, said. The department will focus on northern Queens and the Bronx, where nearly half of the vehicle thefts have been reported, he said.

The police will also deploy additional investigators to identify trends in car theft and is partnering with car dealerships and the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association to educate buyers about car theft, officials said.

“We say over and over again: You like your car; so does a thief,” Mr. Adams said. “We need to make sure if it is stolen, we need to track it as well as giving real tips to consumers on how not to participate in the thefts of their cars.”

Some models of Kias and Hyundais lack an engine immobilizer — an electronic security device — and the ease of stealing them has been a problem for law enforcement agencies across the country. In New York City, nearly 2,000 of those vehicles have been stolen this year, officials said, a rise from only about 300 last year.

The manufacturers operate independently, but Hyundai is the parent company of Kia Motors.

In April, California’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking that the agency recall Hyundai and Kia vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2022 because they are “particularly vulnerable to theft.”

The letter — which was signed by 17 other attorneys general, including New York’s Letitia James — said the thefts had also led to eight deaths.

The agency declined to recall the vehicles, saying the thefts did not meet the criteria for a recall.

In May, the manufacturers agreed to pay about $200 million to settle a class-action lawsuit. The settlement, in which the manufacturers agreed to set aside about $145 million for out-of-pocket losses that owners faced, affected the owners of about nine million vehicles.

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