As car thefts surge, Atlanta police urge driver vigilance

Car thefts are on the rise in Buckhead (file photo)
Car thefts are on the rise in Buckhead (file photo)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Atlanta has experienced a dramatic increase of auto thefts over the last month, and police say inattentive drivers shoulder some of the blame.

In a 28-day period ending Nov. 14, 337 cars were stolen in the city. That’s up 83 percent from the same period last year, according to stats calculated by the Atlanta Police Department.

The biggest increases are in more affluent parts of town, along the Peachtree corridor from Buckhead to downtown, said Atlanta Police Deputy Chief Michael O’Connor.

Since Sunday night, eight cars have been stolen in Zone 2, which includes Buckhead.

“All of those cars were taken either running or with keys inside of them,” O’Connor said.

Five cars have been appropriated from Midtown since Sunday evening, he said. Four were virtually gift-wrapped, with key fobs left inside, he said.

“We’re seeing this pattern over and over,” O’Connor said. “I believe roughly 70 percent of vehicles stolen this year have been stolen with the key fob inside.”

That negligence is not lost on the perpetrators, who are now targeting more expensive cars. Among the vehicles stolen in the last week: a Range Rover and a Porsche Panamera, O’Connor said.

Driveways and gas stations are typically the setting for such thefts, he said.

“You make it so simple for a car to be stolen,” the deputy chief said. “Anybody can just lift the door handle, push the start button and drive off.”

O’Connor said investigators have “a number of suspects” wanted in multiple cases.

Despite the recent surge, auto thefts are up just 1 percent for the year.

Overall, crime in Atlanta is down 17 percent in 2020. But violent crime continues to rise.

The city recorded its 130th murder Tuesday, a deadly shooting in northwest Atlanta. It’s the highest total since 2003, when there were 148 killings, and a 42 percent increase from this time in 2019.

The 28-day period through Nov. 14 also saw a 74 percent rise in aggravated assaults, according to the police department.

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