TERRE HAUTE, IND. (WTHI) - Auto theft is on the rise nationwide. This is trend officials are seeing locally too. According to a report by Investopedia, last year, auto theft hit one of the highest rates in more than a decade. Officials say this is likely correlated with the economic consequences of the pandemic.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau states that there were nearly 900,000 stolen vehicles in 2020. This is nearly a 10% increase from the prior year.
Indiana State Police say many of the vehicles that are being taken are older models with lower-grade security systems. This includes the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Chevy and Ford pickup trucks.
They told News 10 that people need to be more aware of where they are leaving their vehicles and what they are leaving behind.
There are a lot of people just walking around filling stations and they see an opportunity and once they see that opportunity, they take advantage of it," Sgt. Matt Ames with the Indiana State Police said. "They will take your vehicle and then unfortunately you are standing there on the roadside with your fountain drink and nothing else."
To prevent your vehicle from being stolen, Ames has a few tips for you. He recommends that you always make sure you are parking your vehicle in a well-lit area and keep your vehicle locked at all times. Never leave an extra set of keys in your car. Additionally, take any important documents out of your car and remove any valuables out of sight. Most importantly, never leave your vehicle running unattended.
"The problem is people tend to leave vehicles running when they think they are just going to run in somewhere, real quick, just in and out," Ames said. "Don't ever do that. That gives the opportunity for individuals to just walk by and see a car running. Even if you lock it they can bust a window out really quickly and they are in the vehicle and out of there."
The good news is, Sgt. Ames believes there may be a decrease in stolen vehicles as the weather gets warmer. That's because in the winter people try to warm up their cars, and leave them unattended. This isn't an issue in the summer.
If you are ever in a situation when your vehicle is stolen, Ames says it is important to stay calm.
"Call 911 immediately and be able to give a good description of your vehicle to the dispatcher you are talking to," Ames said.
For more information, please visit the National Insurance Crime Bureau's website here.