During the first half of 2023, vehicle thefts soared while most other crimes declined, according to a new study of crime trends in 37 cities released this week by the Council on Criminal Justice.
Continuing an upward trajectory, motor vehicle thefts have continued to rise since the onset of the pandemic.
Considered a “keystone crime” that facilitates the commission of homicide and other offenses, the report noted, motor vehicle theft rose by 33.5% in the first half of the year, representing 23,974 more stolen vehicles in the 32 cities that reported data.
Seven cities reported an increase of 100 percent or more, led by Rochester, N.Y., (+355%) and Cincinnati (+162%).
The number of vehicle thefts between January and June 2023 was 104.3% higher than during the same period in 2019.
Much of the increase is the result of thefts of Kia and Hyundai models, popular targets for auto thieves.
Robberies, residential burglaries, nonresidential burglaries and larcenies all decreased in the first half of 2023 compared to the first half of 2022, the study found.
Robberies fell by 3.6%, residential burglaries by 3.8%, nonresidential burglaries by 5% and larcenies by 4.1%.
In other findings, gun assaults (-5.6%) and aggravated assaults (-2.5%) fell in the first six months of 2023 compared to the same time frame last year. Drug offenses rose by 1% and domestic violence by 0.3%.
The study found that the number of murders in the first half of 2023 fell by 9.4% compared to the first half of 2022 (a decrease of 202 homicides in those cities).
Twenty of the study cities recorded a decrease in homicides during the first six months of the year, ranging from a 59% drop in Raleigh, N.C., to a 2% drop in Nashville, Tenn.
Ten cities experienced an increase in homicides, ranging from about 5 percent in Seattle, WA, to 133% in Lincoln, Neb.
Expanding on the analysis of mid-year 2023 trends, the study provides comparisons with offense levels recorded in 2019, before the coronavirus, the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing mass protests over police violence.
Violent crimes remained higher during the first half of 2023 compared to the first half of 2019.
While homicides have gone down from their peak in 2021, levels remained 24% higher than in the first half of 2019, the study noted.
Further analysis indicates that even if homicide rates were to fall back to pre-pandemic levels, the 2019 homicide rate was still 15 percent higher than in 2014, the lowest level recorded since World War II.
Gun assaults (+39%), aggravated assaults (+8%) and robberies (+2%) also remained higher in the first half of 2023 compared to the first half of 2019.
Property crime trends were mixed, according to the study, as motor vehicle thefts (+104.3%) and nonresidential burglaries (+5.1%) were higher in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2019, while drug offenses (-38.7%), residential burglaries (-26%), and larcenies (-7%) were lower.
Inflation, a reduction in prosecuting certain crimes and a return to normalcy after the pandemic could all be contributing factors to the upswing seen in property crimes, the study researchers concluded.
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