New Orleans Instagram page helps reunite stolen cars with owners
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Compared to this time last year, car thefts in New Orleans are up 107% with 461 stolen vehicles in the first 20 days ot 2023.
It’s an alarming number for the NOPD, which says it can pinpoint which car makes are being stolen most often.
“Half of our stolen vehicles that are reported this year are Hondas and Kias,” interim Superintendent Michelle Woodfork said. “Everyone knows there were TikTok videos or some social media video that instruct you on how to steal these cars. So, of course we have a high volume of those cars (stolen).”
In some cases, the stolen vehicles are used for joy rides. In others, thieves use them to commit other crimes before they’re abandoned.
In order to reunite owners with their cars, one savvy Instagram user saw a need to create the Stolen Autos NOLA account on the social media platform.
“Specifically, (it’s) one place where people can go to post their stolen cars, or any found abandoned cars that they think are stolen,” the moderator of the account said. “That way, we can get cars back to people a little bit quicker since the NOPD is a bit swamped.”
The moderator of Stolen Auto NOLA did not want to be identified for safety concerns, but said they were inspired to create the page after they were a recent car theft victim. Their car was recovered thanks to word-of-mouth, after a well-known social media page spread the word about the stolen vehicle.
The way Stolen Autos NOLA works is someone sends in a photo of a stolen or abandoned car. including details on the make, model and location of the car. The moderator then uploads it to the Instagram page and through the help of shares the owner is often found. Cars would then be retrieved with the help of the police.
The page started in mid-December. After more than a month, it’s seeing consistent results.
“Tips from the page have recovered 28 cars,” the moderator said. “I get so many thank you messages every day. And honestly, it’s the community involvement that keeps me going. It’s not me going out there and recovering these vehicles and spotting these vehicles. It’s other people trusting me with this information to post it or give it to the owners so they can call the police.”
The page’s efforts come at a time when city leaders say they believe car thefts and burglaries are causing a spike in violent crime.
“They’re looking for guns that can be used in other crimes. They are looking for cars that could be used in future carjackings,” Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams said.
The page moderator echoed that statement.
“People are already super frustrated and they’re reaching their boiling point. I keep saying we are sitting on a pressure cooker, where citizens are going to start to retaliate against these thieves who are taking these cars,” they said.
A city spokesperson confirmed that private lots and garages have been in contact with the NOPD about increasing their security measures to deter auto burglaries and thefts, especially during big events downtown.
The NOPD also said it is working with Kia and Hyundai to provide additional anti-theft devices in the future, after the department handed out 64 devices donated by Hyundai to Orleans Parish residents.
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