California Attorney General Blames Automakers for Car Theft Spike

California attorney general Rob Bonta (Getty Images)
March 21, 2023

California attorney general Rob Bonta (D.) is blaming car manufacturers for the spike in car thefts that has occurred on his watch.

In a letter to Hyundai and Kia, Bonta and 22 other attorneys general on Monday claimed the carmakers helped fuel a national car theft epidemic by not installing engine immobilizers to certain vehicle models. The letter notes that over the past two years, carjacking teens launched viral TikTok tutorials on how to override certain Kia and Hyundai security devices.

But Bonta has done little to offset his state’s rise in car thefts. The attorney general boasted in 2022 that while homicides, property crime, and violent crime went up during his first year on the job, arrest rates and probation levels declined. Since taking office in 2021, Bonta has focused his efforts on investigating police and suing cities over their zoning policies as car thefts and violent crime mount. As a state legislator, Bonta helped secure softer sentencing laws and reduced jail time for felons.

According to Bonta’s office, Kia and Hyundai cars made up about 20 percent of Los Angeles auto thefts last year and 38 percent of those in Berkeley since the end of 2022. He and his fellow attorneys general are demanding Kia and Hyundai speed an update to anti-theft software, as well as develop "free alternative protective measures" for those with vehicle models that do not support the technology.

But California led the nation in car thefts and saw a major spike in 2021, when a vehicle was stolen every three minutes, according to a state report listing Honda Civics as the top target. While the state has yet to compile data for 2022, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that car thefts rose again.

This isn’t the first time California has tried to quash theft without going after criminals. Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.) signed a law to limit the sale of used catalytic converters. Rather than reducing theft, the law has made it harder for California drivers to replace their stolen converters.

California progressives have taken to mocking robbery victims as crime spikes across the state. Over the weekend, San Francisco’s former police commissioner mocked a tech executive whose employee was robbed of $10,000 in equipment in the city, saying the victim was "sheltered," and the crime itself just a price of urban life.

Car thefts in San Francisco rose 42 percent from 2019 to 2022, San Francisco Police Department data show.