Car thefts have surged nearly 19% this year – a continuing trend that’s being revved up by a viral TikTok challenge encouraging kids to hijack Kia and Hyundai vehicles for joyrides, police officials said Wednesday.
“We have seen double-digit increases — it’s simply not acceptable,” Police Commissioner Edward Caban said during a news conference after the NYPD released new statistics showing there were 24% more grand larceny auto reports this August compared to the same month in 2022.
To fight the epidemic, the city will equip certain police cruisers in every precinct with license plate readers that will help cops spot stolen cars, Caban and Mayor Eric Adams announced.
The move, Adams said, will give the NYPD “great tools to be used to identify stolen vehicles that are on the road.”
Cops are also in line for more training to stop the surging car thefts, Caban said.
“There are some who think they can just steal a car in the city and get away with it, well, they are sadly mistaken,” the commissioner said.
“Most of us know someone who has … had their car stolen,” Caban continued. “We understand that for those who have unfortunately experienced this crime, it is an invasion of your space. Our vehicles are often extension of ourselves, of our homes.”
No one knows that better than victims of vehicle thefts, or attempted carjackings — like the one that left a Lyft driver with multiple stab wounds in July, when an unhinged man attacked him while trying to steal his black Tesla on the FDR Drive.
“He doesn’t want to go anywhere by himself alone. He wants someone to be with him wherever he goes,” the driver’s wife, who asked to remain anonymous, said of the psychological trauma her husband suffered – in addition to the knife wounds to his chest, shoulder, torso and right hand that have left him unable to go back to work.
“I feel like the city, they do their best but the problem is people are crazy over here. And everyday the people like that are increasing. I don’t know what’s driving them to do these things,” the woman told The Post Wednesday.
The number of cars stolen in New York City has soared since 2019, when the upward trend first began.
Thieves have made off with 10,632 cars so far this year — way more than the 8,953 stolen in 2022 up to this point, according to NYPD statistics.
The NYPD has responded by building a plan that relies on assigning new detectives to a unit that strictly focuses on chasing stolen cars, Chief of Patrol John Chell told reporters in July.
Police officials said the department had started gaining ground on the thefts – but a viral challenge on TikTok that encourages young people to steal certain models of Kias and Hyundais effectively erased their progress.
Other crime categories remained largely unchanged last month when compared with August 2022, the NYPD said.
Index crimes — a broad group that includes murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto — fell by 1.5% in August 2023 when compared to August 2022.
Rapes dropped by more than 23%, falling from 145 in August 2022 to 111 last month. Burglaries also declined, sinking from 1,395 in August 2022 to 1,185 last month.
But the auto thefts — which catapulted from 1,204 to 1,497 during the same period — blotted out the positive notes.
“It is really the grand larceny autos that is really putting a blemish on success,” Adams said.
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