By Len Ramirez

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Police in San Jose are trying to figure out why they are seeing a surge in car thefts since the beginning of 2021.

Authorities tell KPIX the numbers rose dramatically in January and February of this year.

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“The reported thefts were up 49%, which is a large number especially for this short window of a two-month period,” said San Jose Police Officer Steve Aponte.

In a report to the City Council, SJPD showed a map of auto theft hotspots that revealed the crimes were spread evenly throughout the city.

The spike is also part of a nationwide trend. Police cite a variety of penitential factors including the pandemic, joyriding and making a profit on parts.

“If vehicles are chopped down for parts, the engine, transmission wheels they can almost be sold for more than the total vehicle if it was sold at a lot or person to person,” Aponte explained.

The San Jose police report listed the top five makes, model and year of cars stolen in the city:

  • 2000 Honda Civic
  • 1997 Honda Accord
  • 2003 Ford full-size pickup,
  • 2001 Chevy full-size pickup
  • 1998 Toyota Camry

Police said these cars have minimal anti-theft devices built in, and there is a massive market for their parts.

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Eduardo Martinez of San Jose experienced that sinking feeling last September when he went to check on his car, a 2014 Camaro, only to find it missing.

“I walked outside and poof! It was gone right out of my driveway,” Martinez said.

His car was eventually recovered in Oakland.

“They found it just tore, up. No engine, no transmission,” he said. “Everything was gutted.”

His insurance covered for a new Camaro, but auto thefts raise the rates for everyone.

“My insurance spiked up, and it hurt my credit. It hurt me getting my next car,” Martinez said.

San Jose Police encourage drivers to report stolen cars immediately.

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The department is also deploying new technology to catch thieves. 11 patrol cars now have electronic license plate scanners that alert officers when they are driving next to a car that has been reported stolen.