Decline in car theft over time

Today someone tried to break into my car. I'm a little annoyed about it so I thought I would write about it here (and try to add a bit of a news angle as well).

I was sitting at home today and someone knocked at the door to the house. I ignored it, as I often do, because it is almost always someone trying to sell me something. It seemed a little odd as they quietly approached the door and then quietly left again, while only knocking once. Usually you can hear people walking up and down the stairs to the front door, and visitors will usually knock more than once just in case they can sell something to you. 

This evening I went to head out in the car. The driver's side door was fine but trying to open the passenger's door, I found that the door handle had been levered up and it wouldn't open. This has happened once before (about 10 years ago) so I knew what was going on. The previous time they had tried to open both the doors so at least this time the driver's door still works.

I own a fairly old car, a 1996 Honda Civic. I've now owned it for about 12 years and it's a pretty decent, reliable car. I guess there is a known vulnerability in its security such that if you lever up the door handle, there is a way to gain entry. 

I have no idea if the person who did this was trying to steal the car or just trying to gain access to it and steal the contents. Whatever the reason for trying to gain access, both times this has happened the doors have seen off the attack. But, annoyingly I'm going to have to pay and get the door fixed. I guess it's not that expensive but it just feels like pointless vandalism to me. If you're going to steal the car, how about you get good enough to be successful rather than just ruining the door!

The house I live in is on a reasonably quiet suburban street and this happened in broad daylight. I guess that only the passenger door was attacked because the other side of the car is a little too visible to passersby. 

So who steals cars anymore?

It seems that car theft just doesn't really happen much any more. Car security has improved such that modern cars are no longer easy enough to steal. My 1996 car is about the most modern car around that lacks any real security. So, here we are in 2015 and it seems like cars from the mid-’90s are the cars most likely to be stolen. 

There’s an article from the New York Times from 2014 which shows how much car theft has fallen. It seems that the rate of car theft in New York City has fallen by 96% since 1990. That is a huge drop. 

The Economist also has an article from 2013 about the decline in crime in the past few decades. It doesn't really focus on car theft but the drop in crime generally (we really aren't living in dangerous times despite what tabloids might tell you).

The Economist author mentions the theory from Steven Levitt about abortion, described in the Freakonomics book. Also raised by The Economist is the theory about lead from petrol causing crime along with a few other theories. I don't really rate the abortion theory and the lead theory is compelling to me. The truth is probably a combination of many factors.

And, of course, the media will tell you how scary the world is but that's because fear sells papers not because the world is actually scary.

Have a read of some of the articles linked above. And hopefully you're so busy doing that that you don't come back and try stealing my car again!