According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, thieves stole 328,200 vehicles in 1960 in the United States. Thirty-one years later, that number jumped to over one million, six-hundred thousand. Twenty-two years later, in 2013, the number decreased to 699,594.
In 2020, there was roughly one stolen vehicle every thirty-six seconds in the U.S., according to NICB. A lot was going on in 2020, and as a result, vehicle theft was booming. That year, Missouri had the fourth most vehicle theft rate behind Washington D.C., Colorado, and California. There’s no real rhyme or reason these particular states led in rates; the demographics of each of these provinces are different at their core. But it shows that no matter where you live or the condition of your habitat, anyone’s automobile is susceptible to theft.
In my book, My Invisible Father, there is a scene where one of the main characters is with a minor character, going around in different parts of the St. Louis area, checking car door handles to see if they are unlocked. This is an incredibly disheartening phenomenon that has been going around our county, where thieves look to grab anything of value from cars that car owners have left. Checking door handles is not a crime, although many municipalities opt to make it a crime. But taking items from a car that wasn’t locked is a crime, but unfortunately, these crimes, as well as car theft, continue to occur mainly because of a lack of prosecution.
I felt it necessary to have my characters steal cars to draw attention to its consequences. One of my characters stole a car as the story ends, and the results of that continue with the sequel of the book I am currently writing. When I worked at a juvenile facility from 2005 to 2007, I ran many male teens who stole cars on a weekly and some daily. It incarcerated many of them because they stole cars. I remember when I was in high school, the younger brother of one of my good friends died when he crashed a stolen car.
And consequences aren’t just for the perpetrators. The victims have a lot to deal with when their personal property is stolen and destroyed. Crashed vehicles, smashed windows, broken ignition switches, and steering wheel columns. Insurance companies are declaring many of the recovered cars undrivable and totaled. So then, unfortunate victims have to find alternate ways to get to work, pick up children from daycare, to buy groceries. And the suspects are usually in the wind, spending little to no time in jail. It’s so unfair.
As citizens, we can arm ourselves by being sure to lock our doors. Purchasing a Club for the steering wheel (I bought one for my daughters; one has a Hyundai Elantra, and one has a Hyundai Accent. My son has a Kia Optima; Kia and Hyundai models thefts are surging, possibly because of a social media trend). But even this doesn’t guarantee against thefts or carjackings. We have to be diligent, watchful, and smart. I hate I’ve written a blog about these terrible happenings, but we live in a time when this reality is haunting us in St. Louis and all over our country. It’s unfortunate, but hopefully, things will start turning around for the best.