Despite a rise in demand and prices for used cars, rates for vehicle theft fell in 2010.
That's according to new numbers released this morning from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in a preliminary version of its Annual Uniform Crime Report, covering 2010.
Motor-vehicle theft was down a significant 7.2 percent nationally in 2010, compared to 2009; that's following the significant drops of 17.1 and 12.7 percent, respectively, for the previous two years. And the South (9.5 percent) and West (7.9 percent)—where car theft has been more of an issue for many years—showed the largest declines.
Cities with a population under 10,000 saw motor-vehicle thefts down the most versus 2009 (nearly 11 percent) in cities, while moderately large cities of 250,000 to 499,999 population saw the smallest drop in theft. With larceny (which includes theft from a motor vehicle, or theft of accessories), the story was quite different, with those low-population areas seeing just a 1.9-percent drop from last year and the moderately large cities seeing a 3.9-percent drop.
The only rise in crime that could potentially be vehicle-related is in larceny reported by "nonmetropolitan counties"—meaning crimes reported to sheriffs' departments, county police, and state police, all outside Metropolitan Statistical Areas (big cities and their suburbs).
There was one sour angle to last year's record drop of 17.1 percent nationwide: In 2009, the rate of recovery for stolen vehicles was lower than ever—actually at its lowest point, as a percentage of all stolen vehicles, in 25 years. That's likely related to car thieves more often belonging to more sophisticated organized-crime networks.
Vehicle related crimes, and property crimes as a whole, weren't the only ones down last year. Violent crime also showed a significant 5.5-percent drop overall from 2009 to 2010.