Amid an “alarming” rise in auto thefts in Los Angeles that began when the COVID-19 pandemic started, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore Tuesday urged people to take precautions to protect their vehicles.

Auto thefts in Los Angeles have risen 48% in 2021 compared to two years ago, with an additional 5,613 vehicles stolen this year versus 2019, Moore told the Los Angeles Police Commission. The increase follows a decade of year-over-year auto theft reduction.

“Currently we’re studying instances in which auto theft, which is typically a zero-bail booking process, of how many individuals are being re-arrested for new auto theft occasions and whether or not this bail and court operations, which are deferring arraignments and trials for months toward the future, is somehow facilitating or allowing this increase in auto thefts,” Moore said.

The Los Angeles Police Department’s arrests of auto theft suspects have increased by 30% over a two year period, which is almost 700 additional arrests, according to Moore.

The “vast majority” of vehicles stolen are recovered within three to five days, sometimes in the same area they’re stolen from and sometimes from areas outside the city, Moore said.

He urged motorists to make sure they remove their keys from their vehicle when they park. He also told people who park inside a garage to not store their keys on a hook inside that same garage.

“That may appear to be common sense to many, but what we’re finding is that people are leaving keys for convenience so that other people can move their vehicles in and out of tandem operations and other types of locations where people are storing their vehicles,” Moore said.

Moore also informed the commission on increases in the city’s number of homicides and shooting victims, which have also been experienced across the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So far in 2021, Los Angeles has seen a 25% increase in shooting violence compared to the same period last year, which represents an additional 223 victims. Homicides have increased 47% compared to the same period last year.

Homicides across the country increased nearly 30% in 2020 and rose at a slower rate in 2021, the New York Times reported on Sept. 22. The newspaper noted that the reasons for the increase haven’t been fully understood, but experts have cited stress from the pandemic, strained relationships between the public and the police and an increase in gun ownership.

Moore has also cited pandemic stresses and an increase in firearms as reasons for the increase in gun violence.

“Too many guns in too many hands,” he told the Police Commission earlier this year.

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