QUEENS, N.Y. — A Honda, completely striped for parts and left abandoned in Western Queens, is now sitting in a tow yard in Arverne. It's known as a recovered stolen car. Edward Folk says about 90% of the cars parked on the B&M Towing lot are recovered stolen cars. He says sometimes they pickup 10 to 15 stolen cars — a day.
"It's a big problem," said Folk, a manager at B&M towing. "We're one of multiple companies that do pick up cars. And if we're picking up this, I can imagine how many other vehicles are out there.”
B&M tows cars for the police department. And Folk says, he's never been busier.
According to the police department — car thefts have skyrocketed. So far, 3,151 vehicles have been reported stolen this year. It’s up almost 250% from pre-pandemic 2019, when 905 vehicles were stolen in that same period.
"Right now this is a citywide trend. It's happening in and affecting all boroughs in the city," said Deputy Inspector Robert LaPollo, the commanding officer of the NYPD’s Auto Crime unit.
He says more than half the cars being stolen right now are left running unattended, or the driver left the key fob inside and he believes that's in part why car thefts are up.
“Thieves are onto that and they are willing to walk up and down the street and pull on door handles until they find a car that unlocks because the fob is located in the car. Also it doesn't matter what year make or model the car is. If it's running left unattended or if the keys are left in it they're going to take and sometimes we see them being used to commit other crimes," said LaPollo.
A White Honda Accord was stolen in Hollis, Queens earlier this month. The driver said she had her keys with her but left the car running with a door unlocked, while she ran into a deli.
Two men jumped in and sped away. The car was recovered — with all of its parts still intact — and towed to B&M’s lot.
"The owner is going to get it back complete, thankfully," said Folk.
Folk says that's very unusual because the pandemic created shortages and more demand for parts, which he believes is also sparking the surge in stealing.
"Because you can't get parts, probably everyone from needing doors, seats, whatever it needs, and you can't get it from dealerships or aftermarket or whatever kind of suppliers. They're probably on the Internet selling them somehow," said Folk.
Folk has his staff doing detective work of their own — in hopes of connecting owners with their stolen vehicles faster.
He says he's required to hold the cars on the lot for 30 days — before they’re towed to an official NYPD impound lot. So he’s starting to run out of room. Because as soon as one car leaves the lot, one of his tow-truck drivers is back — with another stolen vehicle.