Coronavirus lockdown has emboldened car thieves in New York City

City car thieves are riding high amid the coronavirus crisis.

As of April 19, auto theft is up 63 percent in 2020, with 1,913 stolen vehicles compared to the 1,176 during the same period in 2019. For the week, it spiked 51 percent compared to the same time last year.

Thieves in Brooklyn put the pedal to the metal, boosting 599 vehicles over the past year, followed by Queens (575), The Bronx (464), Manhattan (218) and Staten Island (57).

The NYPD blamed the state’s bail reform overhaul in part, for the surge. The new law, which kicked in Jan. 1, prohibits pretrial detention in most misdemeanors and some nonviolent felonies.

“Letting someone walk out of a precinct stationhouse after they just got arrested for stealing possibly a $30,000 vehicle is outrageous,” NYPD Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael LiPetri said of motor vehicle thefts. “Are we thinking about the victims here or not?”

LiPetri said thefts often occur when keys or key fobs are left in vehicles or drivers leave their cars unattended with the motor running.

He said the NYPD is also seeing a “younger demographic” — more thieves under 18.

Late-model Hondas are “by far” the apple of a car thief’s eye, followed by Toyotas, LiPetri said.

COVID-19 is indirectly spreading a car theft virus.

“With shelter-in-place and less people driving, there are going to be more opportunities for cars to be parked. … People are not moving their vehicles and it may be days,” LiPetri said.

During the pandemic, 7,000 officers have been sick, but the chief said the NYPD employs technology like license-plate readers in every precinct and have stepped up patrols in hotspots, such as South Brooklyn and Southeast Queens.

“We live in real time and do relentless followup,” LiPetri said.

The most stolen cars in New York:

Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau (2019)

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