Car thefts are going the way of the pay phone.
The scourge of thieves jamming a screwdriver into a car’s ignition and joy-riding with friends has nearly become a thing of the past, part of a dramatic regional and national decline in auto theft that is the result of advances in anti-theft technology and aggressive police work.
Newer cars, equipped with high-tech keys and immobilizer systems, are impossible to hot-wire. Police deploy license plate scanners and bait cars, and services such as OnStar give investigators an edge in hunting down stolen cars and the crooks who swipe them. Improved anti-terror laws have made it harder to falsify documents and launder cars, making it less likely a hot car will hit the secondary market disguised as a legitimate one. And police have put resources into dismantling theft rings and chop shops.
That combination of auto industry advances and old-fashioned law enforcement deterrence has sent car theft plummeting across the United States by more than 40 percent since 2003, the last year that saw an increase. The decline far outpaces drops in every other crime category.