According to a report, the United States is experiencing near-record levels of vehicle thefts. West Bloomfield Police Department Deputy Chief Curt Lawson recently shared tips for how residents can help prevent their vehicles and items inside from being stolen.

According to a report, the United States is experiencing near-record levels of vehicle thefts. West Bloomfield Police Department Deputy Chief Curt Lawson recently shared tips for how residents can help prevent their vehicles and items inside from being stolen.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Vehicle thefts on the rise nationally, locally

West Bloomfield police offer tips

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published November 4, 2023


WEST BLOOMFIELD — The high cost of vehicles and access to technology are among the factors spiking auto thefts nationwide and locally.

According to a report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, vehicle thefts have been on the rise in the United States.

The NICB is the insurance industry’s not-for-profit association dedicated to predicting, preventing and prosecuting insurance crime, according to the release.

The release states that nearly 500,000 vehicles were reported stolen nationwide in the first half of 2023, which is an increase of more than 2% from the first half of last year.

“Vehicle thefts increased to near-record highs in the United States last year, and unfortunately, current trends indicate total thefts this year may surpass 2022,” NICB President and CEO David J. Glawe stated in the release. “With little deterrent to stop these criminal actors, law enforcement agencies and communities will continue to suffer.”

West Bloomfield Police Department Deputy Chief Curt Lawson is well aware of the increase in vehicle thefts.

“With unlawful driving away of automobiles, we’re having a significant increase,” Lawson said. “This is just not in West Bloomfield. … This is countywide — really, throughout the country we’ve seen increases. For stolen vehicles, 17 in 2021, 38 in  2022, and 38 so far in 2023. One of the things we’re seeing is that people are entering the township in stolen vehicles, either to steal other vehicles or break into cars and steal valuables, which is larceny from autos.”

Lawson shared a couple of reasons increases in automobile thefts may be occurring.

“I think that the technology that criminals have gained access to has allowed it to be quite easy for them to steal vehicles,” Lawson said. “They can do it very quickly, many times undetected. I don’t think that was always the case, and I think vehicles are certainly worth a lot more money right now, and they’re taking advantage of that. … Used cars right now are worth a whole lot of money — more money than they used to be. … Vehicles are being re-tagged; they’re put on used car lots in different parts of the state. … But the majority of time these vehicles are stolen to commit other crimes and things like that.”

Lawson said that in West Bloomfield, the kind of vehicles that have been stolen are across the board, from Bentleys to pickups.

Some of the thefts are more sophisticated than others.

“Many times, they’re using technology to gain access to be able to start the car, but other times they’re just pulling on door handles to see who left their key in the car,” Lawson said. “We’ve seen where they’ve come into West Bloomfield and stolen cars — multiple stolen cars in a subdivision — and they just go car-to-car and see who left their car unlocked, steal as much as they can and get out.”

The harder that residents make it on those who intend to commit auto theft, the less likely it is that vehicles will be stolen.

Lawson said that of the 38 vehicles that have been stolen this year, 30% had their keys inside of them.

“It’s a crime of opportunity,” he said. “Breaking windows, things like that, creates attention to themselves, creates noise; it’s not what they’re looking for. They’re looking for the easy opportunity of just doors being open or keys left in cars. … I know that some of our residents have put Apple AirTags in their vehicles, so if they’re stolen, we’re able to quickly recover those vehicles – many times, outside of the township.”

Although Lawson said that West Bloomfield is a safe community, he suggests that people take a proactive approach.

“With all the digital keys we see with new vehicle models, the criminals are coming up with new ways to compromise the new technology,” he said. “They’re bypassing this tech to … their advantage, and they’re stealing cars, for what reason? They’re stripping it for airbags, catalytic converters, vehicle rims and tires, and of course, using the vehicles to commit other crimes, like the larceny from vehicles. … We’ve seen stolen cars that kids are just using to joy ride, and once in a while we have information that some of the vehicles are shipped overseas.”

Aside from actual vehicles being stolen, larceny from automobiles has also been increasing in recent years.

Lawson said that there were 80 such cases in 2021, 135 last year, and 172 so far this year.

He shared some tips for how residents can prevent larcenies from vehicles.

“Always keep your vehicle locked. Remove valuables. Park in a well-lit area,” Lawson said. “We want them to consider motion cameras that can possibly notify their cellphones of movement during the nighttime — this is when most of these are occurring, is at night — and if possible, and they have a garage, park your vehicle in the garage.”

Glawe also offered some strategies that can help residents avoid being a victim.

“There are several proactive and commonsense steps consumers can take to help deter vehicle theft, including the most important, which is never leave your keys or key fob in the car,” he stated. “Always lock the doors and roll up your windows, and never leave valuables in plain sight; instead place them in your trunk or out of sight.”

There is also another big step that people can take to help prevent crimes, and Lawson is encouraging residents to take it.

“If you see something suspicious, then you should say something,” he said. “You should call the police. We would much rather come out and check it out, even if it’s nothing. … We’d be more than glad to come there to check it out.”