Car thefts jump in Fairfax and Montgomery, decline in DC

WASHINGTON — Car thefts are on the rise in Fairfax, Arlington and Montgomery counties, but the number of cars stolen has dramatically decreased in Prince George’s County and the District, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Summer is a popular time to steal or loot a car. Almost 40 percent of vehicle thefts occur between June and September, said John Townsend, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, based on the 2015 data reported by local police departments and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Virginia’s Arlington County had the biggest jump in car thefts, an increase of more than 11 percent compared to 2014. More than 160 vehicles were stolen there last year, according to police.

In recent years, Maryland’s Montgomery and Virginia’s Fairfax counties enjoyed a drop in vehicle thefts but both counties saw an uptick in 2015. More than 800 vehicles in Montgomery County were stolen in 2015, a hike of about 5 percent, according to Montgomery County police.

More than 600 vehicles were stolen in Fairfax County last year, an increase of 3.3 percent, according to Fairfax County police.

Both D.C. and Prince George’s County reported double-digit declines in vehicle thefts.

Even though the total number of cars stolen in D.C. compared to the other jurisdictions was higher, D.C. police reported vehicle thefts dropped to about 2,800 in 2015 — a decrease of more than 11 percent.

Prince George’s County had the greatest decline in vehicle thefts over the previous year. Police reported about 2,900 vehicles were stolen, a decrease of nearly 32 percent.

Townsend called it a troubling crime because more than 45 percent of stolen cars are never recovered.

Owners of older-model vehicles should take extra precautions because the average car stolen is worth less than $10,000.

“Older-model cars are more valued for the sum of their parts than for the vehicle itself,” Townsend said. “It is a crime of convenience. If you leave the windows down, if you leave your keys in the car, they will do anything to catch you off guard.”

Local police departments have stepped up awareness and car theft campaigns to alert the public. New vehicle technology is also making it harder for thieves to steal more desirable cars.

Here is a look at car thefts across the region:

Location DC Prince George’s Arlington Fairfax Montgomery
2015 2,825 2,912 161 approx. 614 833
2014 3,182* 4,278 145 594 794
Change -357 (-11.3%) -1,366 (-31.9%) +16 (+11.03%) +20 (+3.3%) +39 (+4.9)


Here is a look at car thefts over the years:

Location 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
District* 7,323 6,191 5,299 4,864 4,339 3,549 3,147 3,683 2,825
Maryland* 28,393 25,329 19,619 18,027 16,072 14,956 13,417 13,102 N/A
Virginia 14,087 13,161 11,451 10,394 9,616 8,846 8,318 7,542 8,103


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