Data Shows: 85,000 Vehicles Stolen in Israel Between 2017 and 2023

By Aryeh Stern

New imported cars are seen at a parking lot in the Eilat port, Jan. 3. (Yehuda Ben Itach/Flash90)

​​The Knesset’s National Security Committee, chaired by MK Tzvika Foghel (Otzma Yehudit), convened on Thursday to discuss a motion for a debate on the topic of “Dramatic increase in car thefts in Israel and the police’s failure to reduce the scope of the problem.”

Committee Chair MK Foghel said that one of the issues that troubled the public in routine times was personal security, and that car thefts were part of this issue. “It’s a very personal kind of harm, and there are varied reasons: price hikes for spare parts, the effect of the COVID-19 period on the supply of vehicles, the ease of breaking into cars, and the fact that the penalties are light to non-existent. This has ramifications such as increases in insurance fees. Car thefts aren’t a decree from heaven, and they need to be fought against,” said Foghel.

MK Meirav Ben Ari said that in the past year there had been an increase in the numbers, and that they were high. In the past year, she said, there were close to 20,000 cases. Ben Ari added that in the end, the citizens were the ones who paid for this, as there is a 2% increase in the cost of the insurance policy after the vehicle is stolen. “Another problem is that in 11% of the cases a suspect or complainee is recorded, but only in half of such cases is an indictment filed. The Etgar unit, which is charged with dealing with the issue, was diverted to other tasks due to the Swords of Iron war. We have to see how to return it to dealing with this issue, and how to make penalties more severe,” said Ben Ari.

Data provided by the Knesset Research and Information Center shows that between 2017 and the end of May 2023, a total of 84,997 vehicles were stolen in Israel. The number of vehicles reported as stolen is particularly high in the Sharon region and in some of the cities in the Gush Dan region, including Netanya, Herzliya, Hod Hasharon, and Petach Tikva, as well as the southern cities of Be’er Sheva and Dimona. From 9,463 cases that were opened for car thefts, indictments were filed in 5,334 cases, and of these, 2,620 cases were closed — 94% were closed for lack of evidence, and 4% were closed for lack of interest to the public. Between 2017 and the end of May 2023, indictments were filed against 5,812 defendants: 55% of the indictments were filed against Israeli citizens, 44% against Palestinians and 1% against foreign nationals. Regarding the effect of car thefts on insurance rates, it was found that the main reasons for the increase in comprehensive auto insurance prices were the increase in car thefts and the increase in prices of spare parts. Payments for comprehensive insurance claims in 2022 reached NIS 7.9 billion, which is a 27% increase relative to 2021; of this amount, payment of claims for thefts totaled about NIS 0.7 billion.

Dr. Shai Amram of the Ministry of National Security said that in a comparison performed by the ministry, the problem [of car thefts] had also increased in Europe and North America in recent years. “In Canada, a 40% increase was recorded. An increase was also found in Ireland, Sweden, and France. In these countries, there are four main tools for coping with the problem: intelligence-driven policing, collaborations between enforcement agencies as in the United States, prevention and public education in the community, technology and tracking,” he said.

Chief Supt. Maya Goldschlag of the Israel Police said that there was a difference between the reality in Israel and what happens abroad. Since Oct. 7, she said, there has been a very significant decrease in the number of cases of car thefts, due to the closure on the territories, and because there is tighter supervision on the border crossings. She said that the numbers remained similar in 2023: From 18,000 cases, 1,760 indictments were filed in 2022, and from 22,000 cases in 2023, a total of 2,100 indictments were filed. “These are very good percentages relative to other offenses,” said Chief Supt. Goldschlag.

Supt. Asaf Vishnia of the police’s Etgar unit said that the newer the car, the easier it was to steal. “This is a cyber break-in that takes up to two minutes. It’s economic crime, and there is a 100% complaint rate, so relative to other crimes the statistics are high, in terms of arresting suspects and filing indictments, but it is low as far as the penalty threshold is concerned. A car thief with no criminal record will sit in prison for 10 months at most for stealing a single car. There should also be economic penalties.” In response to a question by Committee Chair MK Foghel about the proposed solutions, Supt. Vishnia said that it was necessary to regulate the spare parts market and mark the parts, to close the crossings, and institute careful checks during the return to Yehudah and Shomron, along with economic enforcement. “Additional agencies have to be included in this battle,” he said.

Boaz Stambler of the Israel Insurance Association said that in 2022, the insurance companies had lost NIS 1.5 billion in the vehicle-property field. “We in the Israel Insurance Association mapped the failings, including clearing up the chop shops in Yehudah and Shomron, East Yerushalayim and the Triangle region; a request that the manufacturers install prevention [devices] during production; cooperation and enforcement by the police; and giving powers to the tracking companies. We need a national plan that will include all parties to fight this problem,” said Stambler.

Committee Chair MK Foghel said in summation that he was surprised to learn that car theft was one of the major components of economic crime. He asked the government ministries to take the recommendations from the debate and turn them into an action plan, including legislation and stricter penalties, creating new measures, activity at crossings and action against chop shops, and supervision on spare parts. He also asked to present in the follow-up debate the measures taken by countries around the world to overcome the problem.

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