Where is Your Car Most Vulnerable to Theft?


The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) today released its annual Hot Spots vehicle theft report and California dominates once again.  Hot Spots is a per capita review of vehicle thefts from the nation’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSA).  NICB data is in line with preliminary FBI vehicle theft data for 2012 which appears to end an eight-year downward trend in vehicle theft.

Final numbers will be published by the FBI in the fall, but preliminary 2012 FBI figures estimate a 1.3 percent increase in 2012 thefts from the previous year.  Not surprisingly, eight of the top 10 areas are in California with the remaining two from the state of Washington.

The West region, defined by the FBI as the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming saw a 10.6 percent increase in vehicle thefts from 2011.  The other regions of the country—Midwest, Northeast and South—reported reductions of 3.1, 7.9 and 2.9 percent, respectively.

For 2012, the 10 MSAs with the highest vehicle theft rates were:

2012 Ranking 2011 Ranking
1. Modesto, Calif. 2
2. Fresno, Calif. 1
3. Bakersfield-Delano, Calif. 3
4. Stockton, Calif. 7
5. Yakima, Wash. 5
6. San Francisco/Oakland/Hayward, Calif. 6
7. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. 20
8. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif. 9
9. Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash. 4
10. Redding, Calif. 40

NICB’s Hot Spots report examines vehicle theft data obtained from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) for each of the nation’s MSAs.  MSAs are designated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and often include areas much larger than the cities for which they are named.  For example, the Modesto, Calif., MSA includes all thefts within the entirecounty of Stanislaus, not just the city of Modesto.

As a population-based survey, an area with a much smaller population and a moderate number of thefts can—and often does—have a higher theft rate than an area with a much more significant vehicle theft problem and a larger population to absorb it.

Watch this video to see how the Albuquerque, New Mexico, Police Department is using bait cars to reduce vehicle thefts and other property crimes.

The full Hot Spots report is available at www.nicb.org.

Although national vehicle thefts continue to decline, NICB still recommends that drivers follow our four “layers of protection” to guard against vehicle theft:

Common Sense — The common sense approach to protection is the easiest and most cost-effective way to thwart would-be thieves. You should always:

  • Remove your keys from the ignition
  • Lock your doors /close your windows
  • Park in a well-lit area

Warning Device — The second layer of protection is a visible or audible device which alerts thieves that your vehicle is protected.  Popular devices include:

  • Audible alarms
  • Steering column collars
  • Steering wheel/brake pedal lock
  • Brake locks
  • Wheel locks
  • Theft deterrent decals
  • Identification markers in or on vehicle
  • VIN etching
  • Micro dot marking

Immobilizing Device — The third layer of protection is a device which prevents thieves from bypassing your ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some electronic devices have computer chips in ignition keys.  Other devices inhibit the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until a hidden switch or button is activated. Some examples are:

  • Smart keys
  • Fuse cut-offs
  • Kill switches
  • Starter, ignition, and fuel pump disablers
  • Wireless ignition authentication

Tracking Device — The final layer of protection is a tracking device which emits a signal to police or a monitoring station when the vehicle is stolen.  Tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles.  Some systems employ “telematics” which combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of a vehicle.  If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked via computer.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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