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Data released by the New York City Police Department showed Grand Larceny Auto increased by 51.1% with 5,420 incidents as of June 5 compared to just 3,587 incidents by the same time in 2021. 

That category had one of the largest upticks during the most recent crime statistic report covering May 30 to June 5. Grand larceny incidents spiked by 50.1% from 20,659 incidents reported to NYPD as of June 5, compared to the 13,713 reported during the same period last year. 

Meanwhile, overall transit crime surged by 53.6% so far this year. 

Of the 5,420 vehicles stolen, N.Y. Daily News reported that roughly 2,200 of them were incidents where drivers left their vehicles with the engine running or unlocked, often with the keys or key fobs inside. That means roughly four out of 10 car thefts possibly could have been prevented. 

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A police officer sits in her car in Harlem where two New York City police officers were shot after responding to a domestic call on January 22, 2022. 
((Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images))

NYPD Deputy Inspector Robert LaPollo, leader of the NYPD’s Auto Crimes Unit, told the newspaper that the surge “is not necessarily people being less careful than they had been in the past,” as nowadays criminals “are just more brazen.” Felons often steal cars to later commit a shooting or robbery.  

“They’re used for transportation or to commit another crime, and then they’re done,” he said. “They’re usually found locally from where they’re taken.”

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NYC yellow cab has a digital sign on its roof that reads, "Black Lives Matter" with multiple black power fists in a circle as it drives down Central Park West photographed in Manhattan on June 12, 2020. 

NYC yellow cab has a digital sign on its roof that reads, “Black Lives Matter” with multiple black power fists in a circle as it drives down Central Park West photographed in Manhattan on June 12, 2020. 
((Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images))

LaPollo explained that police often conduct long-running car theft investigations, citing a September bust where 10 suspects were charged in connection with the thefts of more than 225 vehicles shipped overseas. 

A destroyed NYPD police car is seen after a night of protest over the death of African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis on June 1, 2020. 

A destroyed NYPD police car is seen after a night of protest over the death of African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis on June 1, 2020. 
((Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images))

Investigators often check scrapyards for evidence that owners deal stolen cars or parts. More sophisticated thieves often create new keys or key fobs for stolen vehicles, as well as new VIN numbers and paperwork to support the vehicle has a “clean title” and can then be sold. 

Christopher Hermann, a former police officer and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the newspaper juveniles and young adults often steal cars to go joyriding and are notorious for posting about their stolen vehicles and racing endeavors on social media. 

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“There’s been a lot more joyriding, and you also see a lot of young people put their escapades on social media,” Hermann said.

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