Grand theft auto: 23 attorneys general tell automakers to make cars harder to steal as thefts spike

Rob Bonta, D-Alameda - 082420
Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, speaks on the floor of the Assembly in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. The Assembly approved a measure, AB1505, co-authored by Bonta , that would no longer let the state authorize charter schools, leaving that responsibility to school districts and county governments. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Grand theft auto: 23 attorneys general tell automakers to make cars harder to steal as thefts spike

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A coalition of attorneys general is calling on major automakers to take steps to address the nationwide spike in car thefts as crime continues to soar across the United States.

Carjackings and vehicle theft have spiked dramatically in recent years, climbing 59% between 2019 and 2022, according to a January report by the Council on Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan think tank. A total of 23 attorneys general, including Democrats Rob Bonta of California and Letitia James of New York, are urging car manufacturers to equip vehicles with engine immobilizers, which aim to deter hotwirings, according to a Monday letter.

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“We write regarding the ongoing crisis of thefts of Hyundai and Kia model automobiles not equipped with anti-theft immobilizers. The recent announcement of a customer service campaign — not a recall — which combines warning stickers, longer alarms and a software upgrade, is positive news but less than is called for under the circumstances,” wrote the attorneys general. “Our concerns with the adequacy of the newly announced measures are informed by your companies’ slow response and lack of acceptance of responsibility for the crisis over the past few years.”

Seven cities — Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Memphis, Norfolk, and San Francisco — saw a 24% surge in carjackings in 2022 than 2021, according to the January CCJ report. The FBI found that roughly $7.4 billion was lost in 2020 due to vehicle theft.

In 2021, California reported the most car thefts in the nation, with a car being stolen every three minutes, according to the California Highway Patrol. New York City disclosed a 16-year high in car thefts in December 2022.

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“Your companies made the choice not to include anti-theft immobilizers as standard equipment in many of your vehicle models sold in the United States during a period when every other manufacturer was doing so — and even though these vehicles come equipped with immobilizers when sold in Canada and Europe,” wrote the attorneys general.

“Your companies’ decisions not to install anti-theft immobilizers as standard equipment on certain vehicles sold in the United States has caused ongoing consumer harm and undermined public safety in communities across the country,” the letter continued. “It is well past time that you acknowledge your companies’ role and take swift and comprehensive action to remedy it.”

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