Chattanooga, TN – Chattanooga auto thefts are up 85% from 2019, putting this year’s stolen vehicle count over 1,200.
The Chattanooga Police Department reports that there were 671 auto thefts in 2019 during the same January-September time period.
Some have suggested that the spike in crime is related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Auto Crimes Investigator Nick Hayes called pandemic auto theft a “crime of opportunity”, as WDEF reports.
“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,” said Hayes.
“Don’t leave your keys in the car, don’t let it warm up outside of your house or your place of employment.”
According to The National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, auto theft was up 11% this summer nation-wide.
The nation’s 11% increase in stolen vehicles does not compare to Chattanooga’s 85% surge.
Forbes even ranked Chattanooga “One of the most car theft-prone cities in the U.S.”.
Auto Crimes Investigator Ty Cooper said that apartment complexes have a higher rate of stolen vehicles.
“What they’ll do, they’ll get out, and they’ll go to nice apartment complexes and jiggle doors. And if they find a key inside the vehicle, they’re gonna take the car”, Cooper said.
The Times Free Press reports the areas with the highest rates of auto theft as the airport, Highways 155 and 58, Brainerd, East Brainerd, parts of Ooltewah, and the 900 block of Mountain Creek Road.
Cooper suggests that Chattanooga does not follow CPD instructions in protecting their vehicles, which may be why the auto theft rate is well beyond the national average.
“Lock it, hide it, hold it”, Cooper advised.