Car Thefts Rates Are Down, But West Coast Hot Spots Remain

May 20, 2010
Police increasingly using “bait cars” to catch thieves

Police increasingly using “bait cars” to catch thieves

Although U.S. vehicle thefts are continuing their downward trend, a number of cities in the Southwest remain hot spots.

For the sixth consecutive year, U.S. vehicle theft rates declined in 2009, confirmed the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

According to the annual NICB Hot Spots report, released last week, when theft figures are adjusted for population, the cities with the highest theft rates are Laredo, Texas; Modesto, California; Bakersfield, California; Stockton, California; Fresno, California; Yakima, Washington; San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, California; Visalia-Porterville, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Chicago far outpaces New York for car thefts. While the New York metro area, as measured for this study, is roughly double the population of the Chicago metro area, they both weighed in with around 30,000 car thefts in 2009.

Smaller cities in the inner Northeast and northern Midwest had the lowest rate of car thefts, when adjusted for population. State College, Pennsylvania, ranked lowest, followed by Ithaca, New York; Elmira, New York; Wausau, Wisconsin; Glens Falls, New York; Logan, Utah; Fon du Lac, Wisconsin; and Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Scrolling through the results, again adjusted for population, yields the generalization that larger cities and those in the South and West have higher theft rates.

The toolset available to law enforcement to aid in the location and recovery of a stolen OnStar vehicle is growing

The toolset available to law enforcement to aid in the location and recovery of a stolen OnStar vehicle is growing

The study didn't divide up its own metro areas; rather, it uses federally designated Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), as are used in the FBI's annual crime report. If the 366 MSAs in the U.S., 304 of them (83 percent) had a lower number of thefts in 2009 than in 2008.

Overall national theft rates are expected to drop by as much as 18 percent, according to the NICB--largely thanks to newer vehicles' anti-theft features, such as more sophisticated security systems, ignition locks that are nearly impossible for ordinary street thieves to crack, and tracking systems from services like LoJack and OnStar. Final 2009 numbers will be out in the fall.


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