Starting in June 2020, the United States experienced a 13% increase in auto thefts, with 41 states seeing an increase over the previous year, a trend that has continued throughout 2021, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
In fact, 2020 saw the most vehicle thefts in over a decade. Specifically, last year, 810,400 vehicles were stolen, the highest annual number of vehicles stolen since 2008, when 959,059 vehicles were stolen, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Moreover, carjackings — often a violent crime — are on the rise, too. A carjacking involves frightening confrontation with an offender who threatens the victim with bodily injury with a weapon or through physical force.
In 2020, Chicago carjackings were up a staggering 134%, with 1,416 people being forcibly removed from their vehicle. This trend has continued in 2021, with Chicago seeing a 44% increase, Washington, D.C. up 45%, and New York up a whopping 81%.
Now is the time for fleet operators to remind drivers that the holiday season can turn from happy to horrible if they become a target of auto theft or carjacking. Threats are expected to intensify during the holiday season because increased vehicular and foot traffic around stores and malls creates more targets for opportunistic criminals.
Make sure to impress upon your drivers the importance of being vigilant about securing themselves and safeguarding their vehicles. Here are some tips to share:
- Roll up windows, lock doors and always take your keys or fob with you when you exit the vehicle. Thieves are well practiced. If a car is not already unlocked, it takes only five to 10 seconds to break a window, grab items, and flee the scene, notes NICB.
- Park in well-lit areas, and near security personnel or surveillance cameras whenever possible.
- Never leave valuables visible on your seat or car floor — this is just an invitation to thieves. Laptops, cell phones, food, and packages should be stowed away in glove compartments or trunks.
- Stay focused and aware of your surroundings as you are returning to your vehicle. Avoid distractions such as checking your cell phone, and always have your keys in your hand as you approach your vehicle.
- If a thief confronts you, don't panic and don't fight back. Stay calm, take notice of their appearance, and call 911 as soon as you are able to do so.