Chicago vehicle thefts reach all-time high in 2023, police data shows

ByMark Rivera and Maggie Green WLS logo
Thursday, December 21, 2023
Chicago sees record-level car thefts in 2023: police data
There were a record level of vehicle thefts in Chicago in 2023. Police data shows this year had the most reports for the crime in a 12-month period.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Stolen vehicles are one of the most pervasive property thefts in the city.

Vehicle theft and attempted theft in the past 12 months has reached the highest level ever recorded in the city, according to Chicago police data.

Chicago resident Tina Swopes has had enough after her Kia was stolen twice in 6 months.

"t was a scary feeling, it was a nervous feeling, because I didn't' know what to do next," Swopes said. "I had to make a decision. Pay for a car note, pay for a rental car or pay my mortgage. And since I was a homeowner I just went without paying my mortgage, because I needed my car to get around. I'm a real estate agent."

Without her car she couldn't see clients and had to spend hundreds of dollars a week for a rental. Bogus tickets were also racked up in her name by the thieves.

"I fell behind on light. I fell behind on gas," Swopes said. "I fell behind on a lot of stuff."

Swopes is far from alone in dealing with the distressing drama a car theft brings. In n the past 12 months, there have been more than 26,000 automobile thefts and attempted thefts in Chicago.

That's the highest number in a 12-month period since 2001, with the Austin and South Shore communities seeing more than 1,200 thefts or attempts in each neighborhood.

According to the ABC7 Data Team, Fuller Park has one of the highest rates of stolen vehicles per capita: 137 cars stolen per 1,000 cars in the past 12 months, which is more than one in 10.

In an ABC7 exclusive interview about the city's new community safety plan, Mayor Brandon Johnson said he is working with CPD and community partners to address the issue, but he had little to say about the specifics of the plan.

"Look, we are working with our police department, as well as the business community, the faith community, community based organizations to make sure that those individuals who are responsible for this terror are held accountable," Johnson said.

In an ABC7 I-Team interview this past spring, Eugene Roy, retired Chief of Detectives for the Chicago Police Department, said he wasn't surprised by the crimes.

"To be perfectly candid? The violent crimes take priority, for example a car that is taken in a carjack at gunpoint is going to be investigated first and more thoroughly than auto theft," Roy said.

Carjackings are down from a pandemic high. There have been 1,321 in the last 12 months, which is down 19.3%.

Many residents may not know it, but CPD policy prohibits vehicle pursuits, even in the case of a stolen car.

As for Swopes, her twice-stolen car was recovered, but she wants more action from the city and state to reduce thefts.

"Some people don't even have the fight to even go through what I went through," Swopes said. "Some people would just throw their hands up and file bankruptcy. I'm not going to file bankruptcy at all. I'm not going to do that to my credit, but what I will do is stand up and fight because that's just who I am."