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Milwaukee had largest change in vehicle theft rate from 2020-21, NICB finds

If ranked by the number of thefts in 2020 and 2021, Milwaukee came in at 8th place.
milwaukee police
Posted at 12:47 PM, Sep 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-06 13:47:11-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee experienced the largest change in vehicle theft rates in the country from 2020 to 2021, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau's 'Hot Spot' report.

The report released Sept. 1 reported a theft rate of 345.19 in 2020 and a theft rate of 597.83 in 2021. The theft rate is the total number of thefts per 100,000 residents.

That adds up to a 72 percent increase in thefts in Milwaukee during those two years, the NICB found - the highest increase in their rate in the country.

If ranked by the number of total thefts in 2020 and 2021, Milwaukee came in at 8th place, behind Bakersfield, Denver, Pueblo, Albuquerque, Portland, San Francisco and Billings.

Milwaukee's score was just above the theft rate in Seattle and Yuba City, California, the report found.

This was the first time Milwaukee made their theft ranking, NICB said.

Nationally, 932,329 vehicles were reported stolen to police in 2021. That's a 6 percent increase compared to 2020 and a 17 percent increase compared to 2019.

“For many of us, cars are essential to our livelihoods and the welfare of our families,” said NICB President and CEO David Glawe in a statement Tuesday.

“NICB, along with our partners in law enforcement, are proactively working to prevent and deter vehicle theft, but vehicle owners can take simple steps to empower themselves. No matter who you are or where you live, theft prevention starts with good security hygiene. Lock your doors and keep your keys with you at all times," according to Glawe.

Vehicle thefts in Milwaukee: breaking down the numbers

Milwaukee police records from the past year and a half show about one out of every ten reported car thefts in the city resulted in an arrest and just one out of every 20 ended with prosecution. Information from the district attorney’s office shows a vast majority of those who actually face charges in these crimes are 16 and younger, previous TMJ4 reporting found.

About 10,500 cars were reported stolen in Milwaukee in 2021. Milwaukee police data shows only 11 percent of those car thefts resulted in an arrest.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney's office says arrests don’t always lead to charges due to the burden of proof needed to convict. Oftentimes, the evidence provided isn’t substantial enough to build a case.

A deeper dive into the data shows who is being held accountable. 300 juveniles were charged last year with a total of 396 car thefts last year. Meanwhile, the D.A.’s office says just 99 adults were charged with auto thefts. Read our previous report on that data here.

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