Chicago Police Announce Crackdown on Car Thefts as Stolen Vehicle Numbers Climb – NBC Chicago

While violent carjackings grab the headlines, Chicago police said they face a new threat as criminals pivot to different crimes.

Chief of Patrol Brian McDermott said the city is seeing increases in motor vehicle thefts, robberies and catalytic converter thefts.

According to the police, Kia’s and Hyundai’s account for almost half of all vehicles stolen so far this year.

“There is an alarming increase in the numbers of these vehicles being used in violent crimes: homicides, shootings and robberies,” McDermott said. “It’s extremely dangerous.”

After finding some success in fighting carjackings, CPD is partnering again with the Cook County Sheriff and launching a new program targeting stolen vehicles. The effort combines free safety hardware and pre-emptive permission from owners to track stolen vehicles.

“We are getting back 80 percent,” said Leo Schmitz, the chief of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police. “When we first started doing this, it was taking about 190 hours to get those cars back. Now we are getting that cut in half.”

Schmitz said tracking is key. That’s why the sheriff wants motorists to sign up for a program that will allow an officer to ask the manufacturer to track your vehicle if it’s stolen. If they agree, they get a set of stickers saying the vehicle will be tracked to deter potential thieves.

“You want people to know that you have taken a step to protect not only your car but your property, and you are working with authorities should they choose to steal it,” said Glen Brooks, director of CPD’s Office of Community Policing.

At upcoming events, Hyundai and Kia owners can also get a limited number of free steering wheel locks. The bright yellow devices will keep the front wheels from turning. Their color will also serve to deter potential thieves. The devices are being shipped “by the pallet-full” from the car companies, according to Brooks.

Police will also be distributing stickers that will etch a serial number onto your catalytic converter so it can be traced if it is stolen. Right now, the valuable converters have no serial number, making it difficult for prosecutors to press charges against thieves who try to sell them to junk yards.

“Here are significant tools that the community can implement to make a difference,” Brooks said.

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