Jun 14

2024

Buffalo getting safer — but keep an eye on your car

Buffalo stung by nationwide car theft challenge on social media


Despite a spike in homicides during the Covid pandemic, violent crime in Buffalo has been trending down. That's also true for a post-pandemic spike in car thefts. But even with those numbers dropping in recent months, there's still plenty of vehicles being stolen.

For those who haven't been following the social-media-inspired crime surge, car theft began spiking nationally after videos posted on TikTok a few years ago showed how a design flaw made it relatively easy to steal Kias and Hyundais. Thus was born the "Kia challenge," encouraging young people to joy-ride in a stolen car.

Buffalo experienced the full brunt of that challenge in 2023, when 2,840 vehicles were stolen — twice the number thieves drove away in during 2022.

So far this year, the numbers are letting up. There were 830 vehicles stolen in the first five months of 2024, compared with 1,328 during the same period in 2023, according to city data. While it's a significant drop, that's still more thefts in five months than Buffalo experienced in 12 months five or six years ago.

Meanwhile, the homicide spike that hit cities across the country during Covid ended in Buffalo last year, when homicides dropped to 39 from 71 in 2022. Homicides are up a bit in the first five months of 2024 compared to the first five months of 2023, 17 vs. 11. But the numbers are nowhere near pandemic years, when the homicide level was in the 30s by the end of May, according to city data.

Violent crime overall has continued to decline, going from 9 crimes for every 1,000 Buffalo residents in 2019 to 7.3 per 1,000 in 2023. The drop in Buffalo is generally in line with national trends, which saw violent crime dropping in the years before and after a pandemic uptick.  Violent crime across the United States is down 15 percent for the first three months of this year compared to the same time last year, according to FBI statistics. 


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