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As the world’s lockdown continues, one universal truth has emerged: social distancing makes people – especially children – want to steal cars. If it has four wheels, an engine and a steering wheel, then chances are a thief has got his eye on it.

In North Carolina, 19 children broke into dealerships and stole 46 cars worth a total of US$1.1 million. The Charlotte Observer reported that the kiddy kleptomaniacs were between nine and 16 years old and they began their crime spree on March 17 as part of a Snapchat challenge. The kinder carnappers favoured luxury brands including Volvo, Audi, Lexus, Subaru and Toyota. The suspects have been identified but not yet charged. Forty of the 46 vehicles have been located.

A five-year-old boy in Utah recently stole his parents’ SUV and proceeded to “drive to California.” He was pulled over by a State Trooper who spotted the vehicle driving erratically on the highway. The miniature motorist, whose feet barely touched the pedals, informed the officer he was heading to the Sunshine State to buy a Lamborghini with the three dollars he had saved.

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Adult car thieves are less cute and a lot more active. In New York City, car theft is up 53 per cent. In Los Angeles, it’s up 20 per cent. In the GTA, car thefts are up around 30 per cent. A nurse in Mississauga, on her way to the hospital, had her car stolen from her driveway. In London, Ontario, five men stole cars from a Porsche dealership. They were later arrested attempting to steal vehicles from a Mercedes Benz dealership. In Fergus, Ontario, burglars made off with nine 2020 Ford F150′s, F250′s and F350′s pick-up trucks worth around $700,000. In Saskatchewan, a semi-truck loaded with canola oil was stolen in April. In Atlanta, a robber absconded with a semi-truck carrying Jack Daniels. In New Zealand, car thieves were arrested after the nabbed 97 rental cars and tried to sell them.

What is it about the lockdown that has the car thieves going strong?

It may be a case of misery meeting opportunity. Streets are deserted and businesses shutdown. Those are enticing conditions for criminals who prefer to work when things are quiet. Perhaps the sight of all those luxury cars sitting idle on a dealership lot is too much for them to bear.

Another reason car theft is up is that our driving is down. We are driving much less than we once did. Some owners would not notice for days if their vehicles went missing. So, a prospective thief figures he can steal it on Wednesday and his victim won’t notice until Friday. In April, the Seattle police returned a stolen car to a man who had not realized that it was gone.

What can the average driver do?

The only one-hundred-percent-foolproof method to make sure your car doesn’t get stolen is to not own a car. A good first step would be to check and see if your car is still there on a daily basis. I’d also advise keeping an eye out for children wearing luxury car gear. If you see a five-year-old in a Ferrari t-shirt, sporting a Porsche baseball cap and Oakley sunglasses then be careful. Similarly, if you spy a gang of nine to 16-year-old kids driving Audis and Volvos consider calling the police.

It’s disheartening to discover that there are those who would use a global crisis for criminal gain. That said, I’m encouraged by the junior carjackers. Their crimes sadden me but I take solace in the fact they showed good taste, extremely good taste.

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If we are going to emerge from this calamity a stronger, better society, then we are going to need positive thinkers. We are going to need dreamers, who believe in the land of opportunity. We are going to need people who think they can drive to California and buy a Lamborghini for three dollars.

Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up today.

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