Bucks County’s Increase in Carjackings and Vehicle Theft


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Christian L. Grosso, Staff Writer

With the number of stolen vehicles increasing over 100 percent in Philadelphia alone, the influx of crime has also found its way into many of the major city’s surrounding neighborhoods in recent months.

Just this past September, Kerri Hampshire of Northeast Philadelphia was returning to her car after a walk at Benjamin Rush State Park around 6 p.m., when she realized her car windows had been shattered.

Upon further inspection, Kerri found that her vehicle had been burglarized as well.

“I was super upset. I cried a little. I was just having a good day, and it was just heart wrenching to come to my car broken into,” she said.

In the end, the thieves made off with Hampshire’s purse, wallet, credit cards, cash, and personal items. The losses totaled over $1,000.

Kerri Hampshire’s experience is unfortunately becoming a much more normal occurrence. Recent numbers from The National Insurance Crime Bureau show that car thefts in the U.S. rose 17 percent from 2019 to 2021.

On top of this, carjackings are also increasing. According to NBC10 Philadelphia, carjackings rose by 108.3 percent between 2020 and 2021.

With a majority of car thefts being rooted in finance, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists some common items taken from cars as doors, engines, transmissions, air bags, radios, GPS units, cell phones, iPads, laptops, and purses.

One of the hardest things is to track down stolen items. Many car thieves will resort to pawn shops to unload merchandise.

In Kerri’s case, the thieves used her debit card to buy $800 in lottery tickets, which are basically impossible to trace.

Here in Bucks County, 6ABC reported this past June that police were urging motorists to be on alert, especially at gas stations in the area after a violent carjacking took place at a Lukoil in Warrington Township.

Police said that incident turned violent, after the thieves strangled the car owner, and led police on a chase that ended with the vehicle crashing into a home in nearby Chalfont.

When it comes to car thefts as of lately, it hasn’t just been what’s inside the car, but also what’s on the outside of it. Thieves have been targeting parked cars for parts that are made out of valuable metals, copper and other materials.

Catalytic converters, a part of a car that converts toxic gasses into clean air, is a common target because they are made out of platinum, and are located on a part of the car that is easy to access from the outside, allowing the thief to cut it off quickly.

According to The National Insurance Crime Bureau, the number of catalytic converter thefts reported in claims to insurance companies increased by 326 percent in 2020, and increased another 353 percent in 2021.

A weekly crime report provided to Levittown Now by Bristol Township Police showed that during the week of May 27, two vehicles were stolen, and there were ten thefts from vehicles in the township.

Three of those thefts were stolen catalytic converters.

In Milford Township, police told The Saucon Source that a “chop shop” was found this past April. A chop shop is where stolen cars are taken to remove valuable parts of the vehicle to sell.

“Through further investigation, a total of nine stolen vehicles, 17 car engines associated with stolen vehicles and miscellaneous vehicle parts associated with stolen vehicles were recovered,” Pennsylvania State Police declared.

Investigators have unveiled startling data that shows the age of car thieves has been much younger in recent years.

Many of these thieves are not even teenagers yet.

Philadelphia made national headlines recently when a 12-year-old boy killed an elderly driver as he was trying to steal their car, according to KYW News radio.

Psychologists say the rise in young offenders is largely due to the pandemic.

When schools closed, many kids had no supervision as their parents had to work, leaving them alone for hours.

Eduardo Ferrer, a professor of criminal psychology at Georgetown University, said that, “When we went into lockdown, we saw immediate disconnection from the positive outlets, communities, and opportunities that young people had.”

For local information and preventative measures to help keep you and your vehicle(s) safe, be sure to check out https://bucks.crimewatchpa.com/, which has a number of useful links.