Las Vegas, North Las Vegas see rise in vehicle thefts
Just after midnight on New Year’s Day, Kimberlyn Mejia and about 20 relatives, along for the party, went to the lawn of her parents’ home in Las Vegas to see if they could watch the fireworks on the Strip.
Parked as usual at the nearby curb was her family’s white 2011 Ford Econoline van, hitched to their black 2018 Utility Tool cargo trailer. Little did the family know the shock they were in for within minutes.
Mejia’s family quickly became another victim of auto theft, a crime that rose nearly 19 percent in the Metropolitan Police Department’s jurisdiction last year through 2021 and rose 32 percent in North Las Vegas.
‘Crazy this was right in front of our house’
At 1:36 a.m. on Jan. 1, while Mejia and her relatives were celebrating inside, a neighbor’s surveillance video captured images of a white pickup truck pulling up, someone getting out, entering the van, and it was on and off pulling the cargo trailer behind it, all within two minutes.
Moments later, “we were about to go to bed when my dad decided to take one last look, and that’s when the van and the trailer pulled out in front,” said Mejia, who is 23.
“It’s crazy that this was right in front of our house, right outside,” she said. “They assumed we were distracted and partying, and obviously we were.”
Mejia posted about her family’s mishap in the public Southern Nevada Stolen Cars Facebook group, where many other Las Vegas-area victims upload photos of their lost vehicles and ask users if they’ve seen them anywhere.
North Las Vegas sees a huge increase in burglaries
In line with a national trend, auto thefts in Las Vegas are on the rise again, although the rate of increase is somewhat less than it was in 2021 when thefts rose 22 percent, according to Las Vegas police.
With figures for 2022 as of Dec. 31, vehicles reported stolen in Las Vegas totaled 10,675, an 18.6 percent increase from 9,002 in 2021, police said. For much of the last two months of 2022, burglaries had been down slightly, falling 2.3 percent from Nov. 6 to Dec. 31.
The phenomenon was worst north of Las Vegas. Vehicle thefts within city limits in 2022, as of the last week of December, totaled 1,657, a sharp 32.2 percent increase from that period in 2021, public information officer Alexander Cuevas said.
“As you may know, this issue is growing nationally,” Cuevas wrote in an email.
The city of Henderson did not provide figures for stolen vehicles there.
Burglaries across the United States for most of 2022 rose to near-record highs. The National Insurance Crime Bureau, an Illinois-based nonprofit that studies crime and fraud in the insurance industry, said 745,000 vehicles were reported stolen during the first nine months of 2022, a 24 percent increase over the same period last year. month of 2019.
The estimated cost to victims was $6.6 billion, the bureau reported.
Rising used car values are a factor
If growth continues, the total could reach 1 million vehicles nationwide by the end of 2022, more than 100,000 more than pre-pandemic peak levels. For all of 2021, 932,329 vehicles were reported stolen, up 17 percent from 2019, the bureau said.
A key factor in the current increase in thefts is the historically high prices of used cars in general, making them more profitable for thieves to sell as stolen property, according to David Glawe, the bureau’s president and chief executive officer.
Used car values have risen almost 35 percent in the past two years amid supply chain issues and inflation, Glawe said.
“Stolen cars can be shipped overseas and resold or scrapped for valuable used car parts here in the U.S.,” he said.
The worst cities for car theft
The worst city for auto theft in 2021 was Bakersfield, Calif., with metro Denver in second place, the bureau said.
For Las Vegas, the bureau analyzed the Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise Metropolitan Statistical Area. By that measure, Las Vegas was pretty low on the national list of auto thefts in 2021, falling to 27th place with a rate of 475 thefts per 100,000 residents.
But that meant an increase in burglaries from the previous two years — the metro area ranked 30th in 2019 and 40th in 2020.
Colorado was the state with the highest burglary rate, 661 per 100,000 people.
Nevada ranked eighth in the nation, with 426 burglaries per 100,000 residents.
The most common vehicle models stolen nationally in 2021—with the most stolen model year shown in parentheses—were Chevrolet full-size pickups (2004), Ford full-size pickups (2006), Honda Civic (2000), Honda Accord (1997) and Toyota Camry (2007).
The bureau said thieves like to target pickup trucks and midsize sedans because they are among the most popular with buyers and available to steal. For decades, the Ford F-series pickup truck has been one of the best-selling vehicles in the United States.
‘I did not find it’
The 2000 Honda Civic holds special meaning for Joshua Ancaya, a 21-year-old welder whose make and year car was stolen from where he parked it in his North Las Vegas apartment complex sometime between 2 p.m. on Monday and 5:30 A.M. Tuesday.
“I was on my way to work and I couldn’t find it,” Ancaya said. “I think this should not happen. I’ll have to figure it out.”
Right now, his girlfriend is driving him to work. A police detective told him to call within 10 days if he hadn’t heard from the department.
This was the second time his 2000 Civic had been stolen, he said. About two years ago, he found it a few blocks from his home, a wheel lock that likely deterred the would-be thief. But this time, a thief beat the steering wheel lock, he said.
“You can’t do anything about it,” he said.
Mejia said she, her parents and brother have had trouble sleeping since the crime. The van costs about $12,000 and the trailer $2,500. To add to the bad luck, they had filled the cargo container with furniture to make room for their relatives at home to spend the New Year, making it a loss of about $20,000.
Her family hopes police can use her neighbor’s surveillance video to read the license plate number of the white truck that dropped off the alleged thief, she said.
“We just kept thinking, it only took two minutes,” she said. “Will other cars steal ours? Can they enter our house?”
Contact Jeff Burbank at [email protected] and 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on Twitter.