DC and Maryland top the nation in vehicle theft increases

Vehicle thefts have been surging nationwide, but D.C. and Maryland top the list in percentage increases, according to a new report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a nonprofit organization that tracks crime and fraud.

In 2023, more than 1 million vehicles were stolen across the country. The District and Maryland each saw a drastic rise in thefts when compared to the previous year, with theft percentage increases of 64% and 63%, respectively.

Coming in third was Connecticut, which had an increase of 33%.

“Some of our community members have told us that their vehicle has been stolen more than once,” Cpt. Lovita Bryant with Prince George’s County police said.

Bryant said a lot of the thefts stemmed from certain models of Hyundai and Kia vehicles frequently being targeted.

“Last year and in 2022, it was definitely a big spike, but it seems to be calming down a little bit,” Bryant said.

Specifically, there’s been a nationwide rise in thefts involving 2011-2022 models of Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

The vehicles are not equipped with immobilizing anti-theft devices, which has allowed thieves to easily steal them using household supplies. Immobilizers are meant to prevent a vehicle from starting when someone tries to use a key or key fob that doesn’t match the car.

The wave of Hyundai and Kia thefts began in 2021 and spread nationally, with a spike last summer fueled by instructional videos posted on social media.

“The Hyundais and Kias have been hurting us pretty bad,” said Bryant. “It, unfortunately, went viral on TikTok a couple of years ago, so that is one of the biggest trends that we’ve seen.”

Bryant said many of the thieves are just going for “joy rides,” as police tend to eventually recover the stolen vehicles.

Police have urged owners of the vulnerable vehicles to get software upgrades whenever they’re available and to use anti-theft devices, such as steering wheel locks.

“We’ve been working with Hyundai and Kia to get more vehicle wheel locks out there,” Prince George’s County police Cpt. Koby Wiles said. “We’ve been trying to provide knowledge to the public in as many ways possible.”

Theft increases have been more pronounced in urban centers with densely populated areas, according to the NICB report.

“I’m not surprised by it, especially with the higher population that we have around here,” Wiles said. “In the D.C. region, you’re going to see those higher numbers because we have a higher population.”

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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