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Grand Theft Auto New York: How Car Crime Affects the Five Boroughs

From opportunistic thefts to well-organized heists: vehicle crime is a day-to-day reality in the Big Apple. Here is our guide to car crime in New York City, and how it affects motorists today.


Taking to the streets of one of the world’s busiest cities is no mean feat. Beyond the traffic and the complex street plan, even the most careful motorist can find themselves the victim of car crime. But just how likely is that to happen, these days?

The Big Apple is a changing city, and felonies are at an all-time low. At the same time, improved anti-theft technology in newer vehicles has disincentivized all but the most dedicated career criminal: the rewards no longer justify the risks. Despite this, car crime remains a fact of life across the five boroughs – although each has its own story to tell.



Manhattan – a borough which includes some of the world’s most desirable real estate – has a good reputation when it comes to combating car theft. Most recorded auto-related crimes are those of a less serious nature: Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), lacking vehicle insurance, or driving without the proper authorization. While each of these offenses can land you in hot water with the authorities, you’d have nobody to blame but yourself.

At the same time, some of the more fashionable neighborhoods, such as Greenwich Village, are now experiencing an upsurge in the rate of vehicle theft. Petty criminals now target the affluent parts of the city to carry out opportunistic crimes, according to police reports.


Staten Island

Like the rest of the city, Staten Island has followed the trends of recent years and experienced an overall decrease in vehicle crime. But what exactly are the trends? How does car crime in New York affect the cost of insurance, and which makes and models are the most popular targets among felons?

Perhaps surprisingly, the vehicles most commonly targeted by thieves are not the glamorous muscle cars you would expect. In fact, the most frequently stolen vehicle, nationwide is the pre-1997 Honda Accord. Why 1997? Because Honda started fitting engine immobilizers on their vehicles from 1998.



Home to two of America’s busiest airports (JFK and La Guardia), Queens is one borough where vehicle theft is still conducted on an almost industrial scale. The high volume of expensive vehicles left for long periods means that the two international airports are a prime hunting ground for thieves. A prime example is the audacious car theft ring which police busted in 2015, leading to fourteen arrests.

The meticulously-planned operation saw felons stealing more than 70 luxury vehicles from the two airports, transporting them to docks in the Bronx, and then shipping them on to Africa, where they could be resold.


The Bronx

The Bronx contains some of America’s most impoverished neighborhoods. But it is if you are paying a visit to industrialized Hunts Point that you should really take care of where you drive. Because while the police of the 41st precinct are already busy trying to tackle ongoing prostitution and narcotics problems, the recent spike in the number of carjackings has become a point of concern for the authorities.



Brooklyn has an extensive harbor side, making it an attractive territory for criminals with a more international outlook. Like Queens, the borough has struggled to control organized car crime through the years. No single case exemplifies this better than the 2011 organized crime racket which was singularly responsible for more than 291 stolen vehicles.

The Brooklyn-based group included staff from within two local Toyota dealerships as well as a locksmiths. The connections were used to harvest vehicle identification numbers (VIN) and duplicate the cars’ electronic keys. Having bypassed the state-of-the-art security systems, the gang was able to move vehicles undamaged, before transporting them to customers in Afghanistan and Yemen.


Counting the costs: how car crime affects you

Despite these dramatic tales, car crime in the Big Apple is largely under control. In 1990, the city recorded 2,000 car thefts for every 100,000 citizens. By 2013, there were only 88 stolen autos for every 100,000 residents. That constitutes a 96 per cent reduction in vehicle crime.

And, when it comes to coverage, insurers are more worried about road accidents than thefts: the most expensive vehicles to insure are high-performance models such as the Audi R8 Spyder Quattro (average $3,384 per annum), and the Mercedes Benz CL600 ($2,669) – and not the thieves’ favorite, the Honda Accord.


Join the discussion

But what do you think? Have you ever experienced car crime within the five boroughs of New York? Do you know anyone who has been the victim of organized or opportunistic crimes? Let us know your own thoughts, experiences, and opinions in the comments section, below.

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