Car thefts drive bump in 2023 San Antonio crime statistics

Violent crime down, but homicides remain high

SAN ANTONIO – Crime was up in San Antonio last year, but not across the board.

The 2.1% year-over-year increase in overall crime was driven by an explosion in car thefts. Meanwhile, the category that covers most violent crimes, “crimes against persons,” was down by 9.6%.

That included homicides, which SAPD says plummeted from 231 in 2022, the highest level in at least 35 years, down to 165 in 2023.

Despite the sharp drop, Federal Bureau of Investigation historical data, which only counts 230 homicides for San Antonio in 2022, shows homicides in recent years are still at a level not seen since the mid-90s.

Police Chief William McManus presented the crime statistics to the city council’s Public Safety Committee Tuesday morning. Watch the full meeting below:

He blamed the bump in crime on a 53% spike in car thefts, driven in part by a social media trend that showed people how to break into a faulty ignition system in KIAs and Hyundais.

Various KIA and Hyundai models, along with some popular full-sized pickup trucks, made up more than half of the 19,225 car thefts in 2023.

Various KIA and Hyundai models, along with popular full-size pickups, made up 55% of all stolen vehicles in 2023. (San Antonio Police Department)

San Antonio recorded its highest number of homicides in 2022, though that was largely driven by a single mass casualty event: the death of 53 migrants in a trailer on the South Side.

The 165 homicides SAPD is reporting for 2023 is a sharp drop off from the previous year, but FBI historical data shows it’s the same number as 2021, which had been the city’s deadliest year since 1994.

Historical data from the FBI shows the 165 homicides reported in 2023 still puts the year among the deadliest in decades. (KSAT)

McManus said the biggest known cause for homicides in both 2022 and 2023 were arguments. Family or intimate partner-related homicides were the next highest cause in 2023.

“If you’re going about your daily routine every day, your chances of becoming a victim are pretty slim. There’s exceptions to that, but for the most part, risky behavior is what is driving a lot of the violent crime in the city,” McManus told reporters after the meeting.

The city has an ongoing violent crime reduction plan created by a team of UTSA criminologists it says is bearing fruit.

The first phase revolves around SAPD officers simply sitting with their lights on in areas with lots of violent street crime. This “hot spot policing” approach resulted in a 41.5% reduction in violent crime in those areas during the first half of 2023.

The city plans to move onto the second phase of the plan this year and tackle underlying problems in some of the more recalcitrant “hot spots,” such as abandoned houses or lack of lighting, which can contribute to the opportunities for crime.

About the Authors

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 25 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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