Israel has become a paradise for Palestinian car thieves - here's why:

There has been an alarming 155% rise in vehicle theft attempts in Israel so far in 2022, when compared with last year's numbers.

An Israeli solider looks at ID of a Palestinian man at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus January 10, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
An Israeli solider looks at ID of a Palestinian man at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus January 10, 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

Despite increased police and military activity in the West Bank, car thieves are still thriving, experiencing unprecedented prosperity.

Car thieves are no longer the mask-wearing predators searching for their next prey to break into and disappear into the night, as some believe. Instead, the vehicle theft industry has become an organized, hierarchically-structured organization, a well-oiled machine with multiple departments, including its very own "customer service" operation.

According to data gathered by Israeli location tracking service Pointer, there has been an alarming 155% rise in theft attempts so far in 2022, when compared with last year's numbers.

The unbreakable chain of Israeli car theft

The unbreakable chain of car theft begins with the owners of used car parts lots, Pointer CEO Ilan Goldstein explains. "They send out orders for the spare parts needed and communicate with the looters who, in turn, go on the hunt for the parts in relevant vehicles."

After the car was hijacked, the thief will then look to drive as quickly as possible to one of those lots, usually located in Palestinian no man's land controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

 Palestinian policemen stand guard as a bulldozer destroys stolen cars during a continuing crackdown on stolen vehicles, illegally brought into the Palestinian territories in the West Bank town of Halhul, on September 27, 2009 (credit: NAJEH HASHLAMOUN/FLASH 90) Palestinian policemen stand guard as a bulldozer destroys stolen cars during a continuing crackdown on stolen vehicles, illegally brought into the Palestinian territories in the West Bank town of Halhul, on September 27, 2009 (credit: NAJEH HASHLAMOUN/FLASH 90)

These escapes are usually characterized by "wild and dangerous" driving, Goldstein said. "They drive against the direction of traffic and ram through barricades and checkpoints."

Another method commonly used by vehicle thieves is one in which they act as "freelancers," delivering stolen vehicles to lots where they then negotiate to sell valuable parts.

In this method, the thieves use a widespread technique called "The Double," in which they break into a person's home to steal the car key rather than attempt to break into the vehicle.

Another option thieves take is to make contact with the car owner and offer to sell the car back to them, often a tempting deal for owners as it would negate having to deal with insurance companies.

However, Goldstein strongly advises to not take these offers.

"We are talking about people who crossed the line to live in a world of crime, car theft, drugs, prostitution," the Pointer CEO stressed. "Some even take an active part in terrorist organizations."

"There were instances in which a car owner was heavily beaten and had money stolen from him," he said, warning of the danger that the thieves could potentially ambush owners into getting both the money and the vehicle.

Despite IDF operation, West Bank car thieves get braver

This rise in car theft is occurring amid the IDF's Operation Break the Wave, which was in theory supposed to significantly reduce the number of thefts as West Bank looters would find it more difficult to enter Israel. "If justices in Israel would have joined law enforcement in properly punishing the perpetrators of vehicle theft, perhaps that would've brought a decline in numbers," Goldstein said.

The thieves' bravery is expressed not only in the rise of stealing attempts but also in the time in which they occur.

In previous years, thieves were usually most active from 10:00 p.m. until the early morning. However, this has changed in 2022, with theft attempts now reported throughout the entire day.

They also seemed to have targeted Israel's central area more this year, with Tel Aviv and the surrounding area eclipsing the Sharon region as the area with the most reported vehicle thefts with 32% compared to 25%.