Chicago hits record high car thefts, record low arrests in 2023
Chicago drivers reported more car thefts in 2023 than in any year since the city started tracking them. Arrest rates hit their lowest level of the period.
Chicagoans reported 29,063 motor vehicle thefts in 2023, the most car thefts in 23 years.
But as the record crime wave surged last year, city efforts to catch car thieves also reached historic lows. The arrest rate for car theft fell to 2.6% – its lowest level since the city started tracking the crime in 2001 through its Chicago Data Portal.
Car thefts were up 26% for the year and were more than triple the number reported before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019.
Overall, 9-in-10 Chicago neighborhoods experienced more motor vehicle thefts in 2023 than 2022. West Side communities reporting the most cases, followed by the Southwest and South sides.
The city’s most victimized neighborhood of Englewood on the South Side reported one car theft for every 23 residents last year. Citywide, the average was 1-in-100.
So why the spike in car thefts?
According to an investigation by CBS 2 News Chicago, 11,512 vehicles - or more than half of all automobiles stolen by the end of September 2023 were either Hyundai or Kias. This continues a trend started in 2022 when thieves began exploiting technical vulnerabilities in the auto manufacturers’ designs.
Combined, the number of Hyundai and Kia stolen by the end of September 2023 alone exceeded the total number of vehicles stolen during all of 2019.
While the technical vulnerabilities in these cars likely spurred the record-surge in Chicago car thefts, the on-going police officer shortage has not improved the city’s chances of catching offenders.
Mayor Brandon Johnson’s 2024 budget eliminated 833 police positions, compounding the 614 positions eliminated by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Officers consequently made over 1,000 fewer car theft arrests last year than when sworn police ranks were at their peak in 2007.
According to a recent poll, 64% of Chicagoans said they felt unsafe. And respondents indicate they want more police, not fewer. A RealClear Opinion Research survey showed 77% of Black Chicagoans want to see as many or more police in their communities. Close to 80% of all Chicagoans answered the same way.
Addressing rising crime in Chicago starts with reducing the police officer shortage, providing adequate resources for judges determining whether to release or hold people ahead of trial, and ensuring witness protection so police are able to obtain vital information needed to identify and pursue criminals.