Car Thefts Are Rising, With California Leading The Way

June 27, 2013

After eight straight years of declines, vehicle thefts are on the rise in the U.S., not good news to car owners hoping to hold on to their vehicles. Thefts rose 1.3 percent in 2012, from 715,373 in 2011, according to preliminary figures released by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), citing data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Throughout the West, car thefts increased 10.6 percent from 2011, said the NICB. The West includes 13 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

For Californians, the news gets even worse. The state managed to add yet another metropolitan area to the top 10 Hot Spots list, up from seven in last year’s report. Four of the top five are in California: Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield and Stockton.

A report from Bloomberg Businessweek cites the NICB’s Frank Scafidi saying that police staff cuts, more vehicles than other states, port and border access for smuggling, weather that keeps cars in good shape, and drug use are reasons why California leads the nation in vehicle theft areas.

“There’s a notorious methamphetamine problem in the state,” Scafidi told Bloomberg Businessweek.”Where you have a lot of drug problems, police will tell you, you have a lot of property crimes. It’s like peanut butter and jelly.”

1.    Modesto, Calif. (2) – Now with the dubious distinction as the hottest of the metropolitan areas in the U.S. for vehicle thefts for the first time since 2008, Modesto reported 4,260 vehicle thefts in 2012, a 29 percent increase from 2011 when it was in second place on the hot spots list with 3,315 vehicle thefts. In 2010, Modesto was also in second place with 3,878 vehicle thefts reported. In 2008, Modesto was number one in the country for vehicle thefts.

2.    Fresno, Calif. (1) – Being displaced by Modesto and slipping to spot number two, Fresno reported 7,563 vehicle thefts in 2012. In 2011 and 2010, reported vehicle thefts were 7,621 and 7,559, respectively.

3.    Bakersfield, Calif. (3) – In the same spot for the past four years, Bakersfield reported 6,797 vehicle thefts in 2012, compared with 5,240 in 2011 and 5,623 in 2010.

4.    Stockton-Lodi, Calif. (7) – Moving up three places and returning to the number four spot for the first time since 2009, Stockton-Lodi reported a total of 4,940 vehicle thefts in 2012, compared with 3,532 in 2011 and 3,779 in 2010. In 2009, the area was in fourth place with 4,479 vehicle thefts.

5.    Yakima, Wash. (5) – Another metro area holding in the same position as last year’s report, Yakima, Wash., the first one outside California on the list, reported 1,665 vehicle thefts in 2012. In 2011 and 2010, the numbers were 1,308 and 1,266, respectively, when the area was in fifth and 10th place.

6.    San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. (6) – The San Francisco metro area similarly held onto its sixth place position for the second consecutive year. In 2012, 28,220 vehicle thefts were reported, compared with 23,223 in 2011. In 2010, the metro area was in ninth place with a reported 22,617 vehicle thefts.

7.    San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (20) – Shooting up the list from 20th place on last year’s report, the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area reported 11,810 vehicle thefts in 2012, compared with 7,460 in 2011 and 8,095 in 2010 when it claimed the 18th spot.

8.    Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif. (9) – The 2,615 vehicle thefts reported in 2012 were enough to move Vallejo-Fairfield up a notch on the hot spots list compared with 2011’s ninth place. But it’s still not as bad as 2010 when the area claimed fifth place with 2,392 vehicle thefts.

9.    Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash. (4) –Big improvement here as Spokane moved down the list from its fourth place in last year’s report. For 2012, Spokane-Spokane Valley had 3,025 vehicle thefts compared with 2,614 in 2011 and 2,763 in 2010.

10. Redding, Calif. (40) – A newcomer to the top hot spots list, Redding had 938 vehicle thefts reported in 2012, shooting up from 40th place in 2011 when it had 635 vehicle thefts. Back in 2010, Redding was in 66th place with 545 vehicle thefts.

Where are thefts the least? According to the NICB report, the Midwest, Northeast and South reported reductions of 3.1 percent, 7.9 percent, and 2.9 percent, respectively. Midland, Michigan ranks as the least car-theft prone metropolitan area with 18 vehicle thefts reported in 2012.

The full NICB Hot Spots report is available here.


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