CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Vehicle owners nationwide are starting to see an unforeseen consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic: massive increases in auto theft.
In Chattanooga alone, over 1,200 vehicles have been reported stolen as of September 30th, according to data from CPD. That compares to just 671 cases during the same period in 2019.
Auto Crimes Investigator Nick Hayes says vehicles left unattended for longer periods of time due to widespread coronavirus lockdowns is a leading cause for the surge in crime, calling it a crime of opportunity.
“With vehicles sitting at the house more, people are leaving valuables in their vehicles in open view, and leaving keys and stuff in their cars because they just might not be thinking about it,” says Hayes.
Hayes says that there is about a 60 percent recovery rate for auto thefts in Chattanooga, and that the thieves involved are usually juveniles.
He also says that vehicle thefts are easily preventable, and warns car owners to take proper precautions.
“Don’t leave your keys in the car. I know we’re coming up on colder months. If you have automatic start, use your automatic start. Don’t leave your keys in the car, don’t let it warm up outside of your house or your place of employment.”
Hayes says not to leave keys or any valuables in plain view in order to help prevent your vehicle from being stolen or burglarized, using the motto, “Lock it, hide it, or take it”.