NYPD urges citizens to buy AirTags to fight surge in car thefts

NYPD urges citizens to buy AirTags to fight surge in car thefts
May 2023

The New York Police Department (NYPD) and New York City's self-proclaimed computer geek of a mayor are urging resident car owners to equip their vehicles with an Apple AirTag. During a press conference on Sunday, Mayor Eric Adams announced the distribution of 500 free AirTags to New Yorkers, saying the technology would aid in reducing the city's surging car theft numbers.

Adams held the press conference at the 43rd precinct in the Bronx, where he said there had been 200 instances of grand larceny of autos. An NYPD official said that in New York City, 966 Hyundais and Kias have been stolen this year thus far, already surpassing 2022's 819 total. The NYPD's public crime statistics tracker says there have been 4,492 vehicle thefts this year, a 13.3 percent increase compared to the same period last year and the largest increase among NYC's seven major crime categories.

Adams, as the city did when announcing litigation against Kia and Hyundai on April 7, largely blamed the rise in car thefts on Kia and Hyundai, which he said are "leading the way" in stolen car brands.

Hyundais and Kias were the subjects of the Kia Challenge TikTok trend that encouraged people to jack said vehicles with a mere USB-A cable. The topic has graduated way beyond a social media fad and into a serious concern. Adams, for example, pointed to stolen cars as a gateway to other crimes, like hit-and-runs. It can also be dangerous; four teenagers in upstate New York died during a joyride with a stolen Kia last year. And some insurance companies even stopped taking new insurance policies for some Hyundais and Kias. In February, Kia and Hyundai issued updates to make the cars harder to lift.

Adams was adamant grand larceny auto numbers were dragging the city's overall crime numbers up and urged New Yorkers to "participate" in the fight against car theft by using an AirTag.

"It's very simple," he said of AirTags. "The charging life lasts a long time, and you can see in real time where that vehicle is located."

On Twitter, NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said users who report a stolen vehicle equipped with an AirTag will see the police use "drones, our StarChase technology & good old fashion police work to safely recover your stolen car," referring to the StarChase GPS shooter the NYPD announced it would use to track cars.

"Help us help you, get an AirTag," he tweeted.

The 21st century calls for 21st century policing. AirTags in your car will help us recover your vehicle if it's stolen. We'll use our drones, our StarChase technology & good old fashion police work to safely recover your stolen car. Help us help you, get an AirTag. #GSD pic.twitter.com/fTfk8p4lye

Since Sunday's press conference, the city and NYPD have also shared messages encouraging basic car theft protection, like locking your car and not leaving your keys or fob inside.

The Association for a Better New York (ABNY), a nonprofit founded by New York real estate developer Lewis Rudin in the 1970s and responsible for the "I <3 NY campaign," paid for the 500 AirTags. ABNY's board comprises executives from various companies, including Google, Con Edison, and the late founder's Rudin Management Company. Apple isn't listed among its many member companies.

"We're going to be partnering with other entities in the city to also bring about that type of donation from not only our corporate partners, but those who would like to play a role in dealing with the grand larceny autos we're seeing in the city," Adams said.