The 10 worst cities for auto theft
One state dominates the list. The good news: Overall, car theft is down nationwide -- perhaps at its lowest point in more than 40 years.
By Barbara Marquand, Insure.com
California dominates the list, with eight of its metropolitan areas named among the top 10 "hot spots" for vehicle theft, according to a new report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
But the good news is car theft is slowing down in many cities and overall nationwide. Preliminary 2010 crime statistics published last month by the Federal Bureau of Investigation show a 7.2 percent drop in vehicle thefts from 2009's 794,616. If that estimate holds when the final statistics are published in the fall, 2010 will boast the lowest annual vehicle thefts since 1967, according to the NICB.
The bureau examines vehicle-theft data from the National Crime Information Center for each of the nation's metropolitan or “micropolitan” statistical areas (MSAs), which are designated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. MSAs typically are larger than cities. The Fresno MSA, for example, includes all of Fresno County.
Magnets for car thieves
The Fresno, Modesto and Bakersfield-Delano MSAs, respectively, occupy the top three hot spots of the most recent ranking, which is based on the number of car thefts in 2010 per 100,000 area residents.
The West, particularly California, has dominated the top hot spots since at least 2000, says NICB spokesperson Frank Scafidi.
The only regions outside of California in the top 10 are Yakima and Spokane, Wash. Yakima, in the heart of central Washington's agricultural area, was No. 6 on last year's list, based on 2009 data, and No. 3 on the 2009 list, based on 2008 data. Spokane rose from No. 18 on last year's list and from No. 35 on the previous year's ranking. Scafidi couldn't speculate about why seemingly sleepy Yakima continues to rank high for vehicle theft, or what happened in Spokane to place it in the top 10 this year.
However, California's place on the list is a no-brainer.
"California has always had the most vehicle thefts and always will," Scafidi says. "The climate is more conducive to keeping cars in better shape, and there are many more vehicles in California [than other parts of the country]."
Car-theft rings go after the vehicles that will fetch the best prices. Older, beat-up cars aren't worth the effort. Organized rings employ thieves to steal vehicles, which are then sent to warehouses. The cars are given phony identification numbers and shipped off to Europe or driven across the border to Mexico and Central America.
"Another kind of enterprise steals vehicles to resell domestically” through Craig's List or eBay, Scafidi says.
A stolen car's true history may come to light when an owner files a car insurance claim and the vehicle identification number matches another car in the system. Insurers then know one of the cars must be stolen and they alert law enforcement. (Which cars are the most and least expensive to insure? Check insurance quotes at MSN Money.)
Other thieves steal cars to sell off parts for extra cash, or in some cases just to get from one point to another, Scafidi says.
New technology fights theft
The decrease in car theft overall is due to a variety of factors.
New laws with stiffer consequences for car theft as well as stronger enforcement efforts have helped crack down on the problem. Sting operations use "bait cars" equipped with hidden audio and video recording equipment and tracking devices.
Thieves who take the bait are caught on tape and then easily apprehended when officers use remote-control equipment to slow down and stop the specially equipped cars. They can even remotely lock the crooks inside, Scafidi says. Article continues after video.
Another factor putting the brakes on car theft is factory-installed anti-theft technology in newer vehicles. And features such as electronic smart-key systems prevent unauthorized users from hot-wiring cars.
But the most cost-effective way to prevent theft of your own car is to use common sense, NICB says. Park in well-lighted areas, remove the keys from the ignition, roll up the windows and lock your vehicle.
Metropolitan areas with the highest rate of vehicle theft in 2010:
- Fresno, Calif. (No. 5 in 2009)
- Modesto, Calif. (No. 2 in 2009)
- Bakersfield-Delano, Calif. (No. 3 in 2009)
- Spokane, Wash. (No. 18 in 2009)
- Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif. (No. 16 in 2009)
- Sacramento/Arden-Arcade/Roseville, Calif. (No. 11 in 2009)
- Stockton, Calif. (No. 4 in 2009)
- Visalia-Porterville, Calif. (No. 8 in 2009)
- San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont, Calif. (No. 7 in 2009)
- Yakima, Wash. (No. 6 in 2009)
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- 7 signs Dad shouldn't drive anymore
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- How to wreck an auto insurance claim
- 12 ways to save money on car insurance
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This is just another reason why my vehicles are equipped with hidden kill switches and silent paging alarm systems. I will do whatever is required to keep what I have worked for. I do not care what Calif*#kya says about protecting property I will let your imagination figure out what that is. I Believe in Dr. Werner Betz's approach to the predatory types:
" If I have worked for it ... paid for it ... its mine. If you attempt to steal what is mine ... I will take your life. It's a fair trade and you have just been given fair warning" ... Dr. Werner Betz
I noticed this article never mentioned the impact of illegal immigrants on crime in California. This was not an oversight, just another example of the old school press pandering to the progressive ways of California and all those progressive thugs that are running our country in Washington. . NBC and MSNBC is the worst of the worst when it comes to slanted news toward the progressive side. No doubt to me that the percentage of the car thefts are due to the activities of all the illegals that are already taken care of by our tax dollars in California. Wake up America!
What?! No cities in Texas are on this list?? Back in 1992 we moved from Ohio to San Antonio and were told by ALL the car insurance companies that we must pay more for car insurance (over 2X what were paying in Ohio) since the incidents of car theft was was SO HIGH in Texas.
I want my money back.
With the exploding birth rate of the legal and illegal mexican population look for this condition to be endemic throughout the entire U.S.A. in another 15 years or sooner.
The U.S.A. of yesterday is dead and conquered by the third world invasion from mexico,thank you democrat and republican lawmakers for your absolute stupidity.
Well if our **** president would just increase funding and authority to border control we wouldn't have this problem. Just fact
We need to get serious and fix the system so families can sue if their family member is killed while in the act of a crime. We also need to make it legal to shoot a thief on site if caught stealing our property regardless of what it is. Time to take back our rights and eliminate all the damn lawyers who keep making life more difficult for those of us who are not criminals. Too damn many lawyers who want to create more laws to protect criminals. Criminals have too many rights. Time to make them pay for their time in jail just like a motel would. I have to pay for my health care, so should they while they are locked up. It is time to get serious America! It is time to take back our streets and neighborhoods from the thieves and gangs!
@BIG BOB714...your comment makes no sense. Just because our roots come from Europe doesn't change the fact that these car thefts are happening due to illegal immigrants. Just because we come from Europe doesn't mean we have to accept these illegals. We need to protect our borders and protecting our borders doesn't make us racist.
This author is either an idiot or too worried to tell it how it really is. I'm sorry I wasted my time reading it. when are reporters or authors of such stories going to stop worrying about being politically correct and instead, speak some reality?!
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