As number of Philly car-thefts grow, police say they recover at least half as they look for solutions

More than 1,200 cars stolen in Philadelphia in only the first 22 days of 2023 and there are a lot of questions being asked regarding why it's happening.

Robert Seltner says the 2014 Chrysler van they had just paid off was a lifeline for getting his daughter and five grandchildren around. But, two weeks ago, while leaving it running in Fishtown for minutes, someone jumped in and drove off.

"It destroyed our lives, cause we put whatever money we had left to get that van into tip-top shape," Seltner says of the family van. "It’s just left us stranded."

Added Jessica Seltner, "Right now, we don’t even know what we’re doing."

The Seltner’s van, one of 1,220 vehicles stolen in Philadelphia in the first 22 days of 2023, police say, and that number doesn’t include carjackings.

RELATED COVERAGE: More than 1,200 cars stolen in Philadelphia so far this year following record-setting 2022

The Major Crimes Unit says Northeast and Northwest neighborhoods are seeing the highest numbers and keys left in cars or cars left running is still a big issue.

Hyundais and Kias, due to a TikTok challenge and what, they call, a ‘manufacturer’s flaw’ are driving the increase.

"For the most part, we find they are used for joyriding and a lot of it’s committed by juveniles," Lieutenant Martin Bernard, with Philadelphia Police Major Crimes Unit, stated. "Vehicles are getting recovered in a very short period of time and, usually, within the geographical area where they are stolen."


About 50 to 60 percent, according to Lt. Bernard. He feels only a small number of the thefts are criminals looking to re-sell vehicles.

"Criminals do use a plate other than what’s registered to the car to avoid detection by police and also, paper tags are sometimes put on the car," Lt. Bernard explained. "They’re very easy to acquire, very easy to duplicate. That’s become the issue."

"Anybody can break in the window, break the column and start the car," Ray Hatcher, owner of Provision Collision," said.

Hatcher, owner of the Port Richmond business, says replacement windows for Kias and Hyundais are all back-ordered.

No matter the make or model, experts say everyone is paying more for car insurance.

In 2022, nationally, car thefts were up more than 20 percent and insurance rates are up more than eight percent in 2023.

"There’s lots of reasons for that, but the bottom line is, as car thefts go up, it really impacts everybody, the way insurance companies deal with premiums, but if you have a zip code in the city, you can absolutely expect to pay more for car insurance," University of San Diego finance professor, Dan Roccato, said.