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Study finds motor vehicle thefts down in Connecticut following pandemic spike

Police car
Scott Davidson

Motor vehicle thefts spiked in Connecticut during the pandemic but are now on the decline, according to a preliminary study presented to the state’s Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee.

State and local crime statistics show that car thefts peaked in Connecticut in 1991 when 26,000 were stolen, said Ken Barone of the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy, who authored the study. By 2019 only 6,000 cars were stolen, the fewest in 30 years.

By April 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic shutdown, the numbers began to climb. But by the second half 2021, car thefts were down by 4% to 10% across the state, he said.

“I think if the COVID-19 pandemic continues to remain under control it's likely that motor vehicle thefts would continue to decline through 2022,” said Barone.

The pandemic shutdown and the introduction of key fob technology are likely responsible for this he said.

“Nationally we’ve seen a 93% increase in vehicle thefts related to keys being left in cars and cars being left unlocked. Most of that has occurred when the market has been saturated with key fob vehicles. So we saw a very clear correlation to the changing nature of technology in vehicles and in the increase in this theft across the country,” Barone said.

Juveniles account for only 30% of arrests for car theft. That percentage has not changed much in the past 30 years, the researcher said.

The data contradicts Republican claims that juvenile involvement in car theft is on the rise.

Only about 10% of car thefts in Connecticut are solved by police.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.