FBI data: Violent crime down in Ohio, but vehicle thefts continue to surge

Ohio saw an overall decrease in violent crime last year, but vehicle thefts skyrocketed, with larceny and property crimes also increasing, according to data collected by the FBI.

Vehicles thefts have continued to climb each year since 2019 both in Ohio and nationally.

In 2021, there were 183 motor vehicle thefts in Ohio per 100,000 people and 255.9 in the U.S. Last year, there were 234.5 vehicle thefts per 100,000 people in Ohio and 282.7 in the U.S., according to FBI data.

This was a 28.14% increase in Ohio — nearly five times the 6.58% increase from 2020 to 2021 and four times as much as the 7.38% from 2019 to 2020.

Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck said the increase in vehicle thefts locally is a scary trend.

“It started out with what we called the Kia Boys and how easy it was to steal Kias and Hyundais,” he said. “But it’s led to vehicles with key fobs that don’t need a physical key to start. Technology has made it much easier to where they’re using iPhones and iPads and Android devices and they’re able to use programming to start those vehicles.”

Those stealing vehicles sometimes use them in additional crimes, compounding the issue for law enforcement officers.

“The biggest hurdle we’re facing is the aggressive driving we’re facing that the thieves are using,” the sheriff said. “None of us (law enforcement officers) have seen individuals flee and drive a vehicle when they’re being stopped like individuals do now.”

Streck said for safety reasons most law enforcement agencies don’t allow officers to initiate a pursuit for just a stolen vehicle. As a result, the sheriff’s office and other local agencies are working together to find other ways to stop vehicle thefts.

Efforts to catch thieves

In Montgomery County there’s the GTA Blitz Task Force that operates multiple times a week to find and arrest people stealing vehicles. The task force is made up of deputies, Dayton police officers and officers from other area agencies.

“We have undercover detectives and task force members out in areas that are getting hit and where data shows that there have been thefts or there could be thefts,” Streck said. “We use Homeland Security Investigations and the Ohio State Highway Patrol air support whenever we can so we don’t have to pursue. That’s how we get a lot of arrests.”

The sheriff’s office is also using cameras, license plate readers and other technology to arrest suspects and build cases against them.

Another issue is people coming from other regions to steal vehicles, Streck explained.

“For awhile we were having a lot of vehicles found in Cincinnati and the Hamilton area,” he said. “They steal from one area and they automatically leave.”

While officers are continuing to track down vehicle theft suspects, Streck stressed ways people can make their vehicle less of a target.

“We’ve got to get people to quit leaving their cars unlocked,” he said. “We’ve got to get people to quit leaving valuables in their cars. People are leaving their firearms in their cars and they may legally be able to do that. The problem is, when the vehicle gets stolen then we have that firearm that’s out on the street.”

As temperatures continue to drop, people should also avoid leaving their cars running while warming up or defrosting in the morning, or stopping at the gas station.

Stolen vehicles accounted for the second highest value of property stolen in Ohio last year with $222.6 million worth of vehicles taken, according to FBI data. Miscellaneous property items had the highest total value with $231.2 million.

More than $144 million worth of stolen vehicles were recovered in Ohio in 2022.

Streck noted the vehicles that can start without a key tend to be more expensive and are being resold. And if law enforcement officers are able to recover a stolen vehicle, most of the time they’re not in good condition.

“The odds of getting a stolen vehicle back unharmed is unfortunately very rare because of how (thieves) drive it and let alone if they get into a pursuit or something like that,” he said.

Other crime trends

Overall property crimes were up 3.64% in Ohio compared to 2021 and larceny increased 2.22% during that same period. Property crimes include burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

Burglary has continued to decrease in the state and nationally over the last decade. Last year marked a decade low of 255.3 burglaries in Ohio per 100,000 people and 269.8 in the U.S., according to FBI data. In 2012, the state had 911.6 burglaries per 100,000 and the U.S. had 672.2.

Overall violent crimes were down in Ohio and the U.S. in 2022, with Ohio seeing a 7.5% decrease from 2021 and the U.S. reporting a 1.63% decrease.

Last year Ohio and the U.S. both also saw a drop in homicides after increases in 2021 and 2020.

Ohio had 6.1 homicides per 100,000 people last year, compared to 7.5 and 7 in 2021 and 2020, respectively, according data from the FBI. Nationally there were 6.5 homicide per 100,000 in 2020 and 6.8 in 2021 compared to 6.3 in 2022.

The FBI collected data from 13,293 law enforcement agencies across the country. The Ohio statistics were submitted by 638 of the 856 participating law enforcement agencies in the state.

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