Car theft in Evanston is accelerating. The number of cars stolen in 2022, 141, was more than double the number stolen in 2018, 64, according to Evanston Police Department records.

Through March 22 of this year there have already been 72 vehicles stolen, according to EPD records. If the trend continues, it could represent the highest number of cars stolen in recent years.

“Within the first three months of the year, we have already eclipsed half the number of cars that were stolen in 2022,” said Commander Ryan Glew. “This appears to be a trend. Stolen vehicles is definitely one of our priorities.”

The number of car thefts in Evanston more than doubled from 64 in 2018 to 141 in 2022. Credit: Gina Castro

EPD can’t predict if or how much auto thefts will increase in the warmer months to come. Crime rates typically fall during the winter and increase in the warmer months, Glew said.

“Jan. 1 to March 22 is all winter, and we’re at 72 stolen cars for that time frame,” Glew said. “It doesn’t appear that the inclement weather is assisting us.”

Between 2018 and 2020, the number of cars stolen each year increased by a dozen or so. That increase more than doubled between 2021 and 2022.

Glew said approximately 50% of cars stolen in Evanston are Kia and Hyundai vehicles. The targeted thefts for certain models of Kia and Hyundai is speculated to be the result of viral videos on social media showing people how to steal the cars.

Car thefts are increasing statewide, too, with a 35% increase in stolen vehicles in 2022 compared to 2021, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Illinois sits in sixth place – after California, Texas, Florida, Washington and Colorado – for the state with the most motor vehicle thefts.

Auto thefts in Chicago rose 55% in 2022.

The driver of a stolen 2012 Buick Verano crashed into three parked vehicles on the 2000 block of Foster Street, according to EPD’s investigation report obtained through a records request. Credit: Gina Castro

Car theft can result in more than just loss of property. Glew said auto thieves tend to drive in a reckless or “high-risk” manner.

A stolen 2006 Land Rover collided with a vehicle and vacated the scene at the 2000 block of Warren Street on April 13, Glew said.

At midnight on March 25, the driver of a stolen 2012 Buick Verano crashed into three parked vehicles on the 2000 block of Foster Street. When police arrived, the officers found the Buick with its doors open and airbags deployed, according to EPD’s investigation report.

“Unfortunately, with the stealing of cars, it’s not just the hazard of the car being stolen itself,” Glew said. “There’s the possibility of confrontation with the owners or witnesses, and typically, these vehicles are used in a high-risk manner. It’s not uncommon for them to be involved in accidents, hit-and-runs after they’re stolen. Typically when the car becomes undriveable, [the driver] will flee on foot.”

EPD is working on learning how vehicles are being stolen. It’s also in touch with auto manufacturers to gather wheel locks.

The police department offers a number of tips to help prevent stolen cars, including parking in well-lit areas and spray-painting catalytic converters, which are often the object of theft.

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Gina Castro

Gina Castro is a Racial Justice fellow for the RoundTable. She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she studied investigative reporting....

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