APD: Car thefts in 2022 outpace 2021's monthly numbers

Citywide auto theft in 2022 has continued to outpace 2021 numbers each month.

"The numbers have been going up each year I've been in Auto Theft," said Detective Francisco Jimenez, who has been with APD's Auto Theft Unit for about three years.

A July study analyzed over 250,000 tweets from people posting about their car being stolen in locations around the world. Austin was ranked as the second-worst city in the U.S. with 1,975 tweets relating to car theft.

However, in another 2022 study based on data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Austin didn’t make the top 10.

Looking at just the APD numbers, there has been an increase comparing 2022 to 2021.

According to the Chief’s Monthly Reports, auto theft was up citywide by 23% in July 2022 compared to July 2021. It was up 28% in June, 31% in May and 44% in April. 

Det. Jimenez pointed out some recent trends for car owners to be aware of. 

Criminals are using fake identification to purchase cars in someone else’s name and then make a profit, often on sites like Facebook Marketplace. 

"It is a newer trend," said Det. Jimenez. "It's something that I guess, originally, we saw more in Houston, and it's kind of migrated its way up here."


It’s also happening at rental car companies.

"We had one recently where it was a fraudulent rental that was rented in Austin, but then it was sold on Craigslist in San Antonio," said Det. Jimenez. "It was a $40,000 truck being sold for $20,000."

Detective Jimenez noted Dodge Hellcats are often being targeted in various identification scams.

"We've seen those with airport thefts where people were utilizing locksmiths and basically lying to the locksmiths, telling them, ‘It’s my vehicle, I lost my keys,’ and showing some sort of fake insurance card and then having a locksmith make a key for them." 

Another trend, thanks to a recent TikTok challenge, has Kias being targeted because they can be stolen using a USB charger. 

When it comes to preventing theft, Det. Jimenez encourages car owners to never leave a car running. He also said to make sure you have insurance for trailers and RVs as they are often targeted, and if possible, add a GPS or tracking device.

He also encouraged those in the market for a used car to be wary.

"If you see a vehicle that's below market value, that's too good to be true, it's likely it's a stolen vehicle," said Det. Jimenez. "If they're asking for cash, they're asking you to meet at their apartment complex or a Walmart on a Saturday night, it's likely it's going to be a fraudulent transaction." 

Det. Jimenez said license plate readers can help officers track stolen vehicles. Currently, the City of Austin is considering reinstating license plate readers.

Council members were supposed to approve a resolution directing the city manager to identify funding to reinstate the program on Wednesday, but that item was postponed to Sept. 1.