(This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.)

Crime in Philadelphia’s four suburban counties largely dropped in 2023 when compared to the previous year, but in a statistical sense, many of those gains are being wiped out by large numbers of auto thefts continuing to plague southeast Pennsylvania, according to a Broad + Liberty analysis of the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting database.

Taking a wider view and comparing 2023 to 2018, the total number of “Part 1” offenses was up in Bucks, Montgomery and Delaware counties, but down in Chester County. “Part 1” offenses include most major felonies which are usually split into two categories: violent crimes like murder, rape, aggravated assault and others, or property crimes like burglary, car theft, or arson.

The data — especially the drop from 2022 to ‘23 — largely jibe with reports from earlier this spring noting that FBI statistics also showed a drop in violent crime over the same time frame, “continuing a downward trend after a pandemic-era spike,” according to the Associated Press.

But auto thefts continue to be the outlier in southeast Pennsylvania, with the spike that started in 2021 yet to be contained. Over the last two years, law enforcement officials all across the country have blamed a large part of the problem on a TikTok video that exposed security weaknesses in Kia and Hyundai cars, showing exactly how easy it was to break into those vehicles.

For example, from 2022 to ‘23, Bucks County saw significant drops in eight of eleven categories, such as a 50 percent drop in homicides, a 24 percent drop in robbery, and a 26 percent drop in arson. However, auto thefts were up twenty percent.

Bucks County District Attorney Jennifer Schorn said in general, the numbers in her county are encouraging and reflect law enforcement’s commitment to target violence.

“Over the past few years, our office has focused resources on fully investigating and prosecuting those who illegally possess, purchase, manufacture, and traffic firearms,” she said. “Working with local, state, and federal partners, our Bucks County District Attorney’s Drug Strike Force has disrupted several organizations that offer illegally purchased, stolen, or privately manufactured for sale on the illegal market, in turn removing guns from the streets and saving countless lives.

“The increase in auto thefts is something we continue to work on every day through investigations and initiatives, including steering wheel lock giveaways to help mitigate the number of thefts to the affected Hyundai or Kia models. Last year, detectives and prosecutors with this office led the takedown of a massive catalytic converter theft ring that we are hopeful will serve as a deterrent to anyone considering stealing vehicle parts or vehicles in Bucks County.

If there is a noticeable gap in the coverage provided by the UCR database, it’s that it does not track firearm statistics, a category many district attorneys have focused on in recent years.

Delaware County saw the most number of categories with increases with four: robbery, aggravated assault, auto theft, and arson. Montgomery saw double-digit drops in seven categories. Chester County saw the best decline when comparing 2023 numbers to 2018, showing broad drops across seven categories across that six-year period.

Requests for comment to the district attorney’s offices in Chester, Montgomery, and Delaware counties were not returned.

The battle against auto thefts is mainly a phenomenon of southeast Pennsylvania.

Using the same data from the Uniform Crime Report, Philadelphia represents 70 percent of all auto thefts reported statewide. When folding in the four collar counties to that calculation, the five-county area accounts for 80 percent of all auto thefts reported statewide.

Even with the overall trends pointing down, crime still figures to be a prominent feature in the 2024 presidential, senate, and other races in Pennsylvania and across the country, with the election now exactly six months away.

Gallup poll from March showed crime is the second biggest concern for the country, right behind inflation.

The statistics below are sourced from the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Report. The numbers presented are raw offenses only, and do not include other data like arrests, number of cases charged, or percent of cases cleared.