Call them what they are: car thefts are crimes of opportunity.
“Thieves know that people are leaving their vehicles with keys around,” says Metro Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron.
Not to mention, the growing trend is a heavy burden on law enforcement’s workload.
“The thieves know to look inside to see what might be laying around,” Aaron said. “If they steal your car, they are going to go break into houses and rob people.”
Across all of Metro Nashville, there were 3,114 cars reported stolen in 2018, an average of more than eight cars per day. And officials say the car-theft crime wave is picking up steam in 2019.
“I’m comfortable in saying that the vast majority are easy targets,” says Sergeant Michael Fisher with East Precinct.
By the beginning of April, Nashville was on pace for more than 3,336 vehicle thefts — more than all of 2018 in just four months.
A crucial key to the success of these car thieves? The opportunity provided to them.
“This week, right now we’re sitting at five vehicles stolen in East Nashville — every one was taken with keys,” Fisher said.
Since January 1, around 70% of stolen cars were snatched with the keys inside. According to Fisher, people commonly leave behind a spare set of keys in the car or the doors are unlocked. Either way, it’s just the chance thieves need.
“All these new cars, you’ve got to have that remote with the chip key or it’s not going,” Fisher said.
In January, 325 cars were stolen. In February, Metro reported 275 thefts. There were 234 cars stolen in March, and 127 through April 19.
Metro officers are promoting safe parking at gas stations and other places where car thefts are spiking. They see it all, even children left behind.
“So, don’t leave your car running. Don’t leave your keys in the car. Lock your car doors. Second thing, you left your kids in the car,” one officer recently warned a driver, at a convenience store in Madison.
Police are now forced to remind the public to lock up because many of these thefts are preventable, like the crimes that follow.
“That would make a substantial impact in the overall crime rate for Davidson County,” Fisher said. “You’d have a drastic reduction in crime.”
Instead, you see a spike, specifically in property crimes. Year over year, in East Nashville, there’s been a 40% increase in car thefts. Call it a trend, but it doesn’t need to be. Once you take away the opportunity the options are limited.
This year in Davidson County, Monday is, on average, the busiest day for car thefts.
If you suspect your car was stolen or notice suspicious activity, call Metro police at 615-862-8600 or Nashville CrimeStoppers at 615-74-CRIME to make a report.