Car thieves still love California

June 7, 2016

Today, many Californians are driving to the polls to cast votes in federal and state primaries. Let's just hope they remember to lock their cars while they're in the voting booth.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, California remains America's most popular state for car thieves. In its latest Hot Spots report, the NICB ranks 380 metro areas in terms of auto thefts per capita reported in 2015. By that metric, California is home to eight of the ten areas with the highest theft rates:

1. Modesto, CA (4,072 thefts, or 756.33 per 100,000 residents)
2. Albuquerque, NM (6,657 thefts, or 733.71 per 100,000 residents)
3. Bakersfield, CA (6,000 thefts, or 680.14 per 100,000 residents)
4. Salinas, CA (2,934 thefts, or 676.20 per 100,000 residents)
5. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA (30,554 thefts, or 656.21 per 100,000 residents)
6. Stockton-Lodi, CA (4,656 thefts, or 641.23 per 100,000 residents)
7. Pueblo, CO (983 thefts, or 600.89 per 100,000 residents)
8. Merced, CA (1,605 thefts, or 597.87 per 100,000 residents)
9. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA (25,001 thefts, or 556.92 per 100,000 residents)
10. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA (2,352 thefts, or 539.34 per 100,000 residents)

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If we look only at the raw number of vehicles stolen, we see that California still comes out on top, though not as heavily:

1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (57,247 thefts)
2. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA (30,554 thefts)
3. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX (25,433 thefts)
4. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA (25,001 thefts)
5. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (22,391 thefts)
6. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI (19,512 thefts)
7. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX (19,051 thefts)
8. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL (18,862 thefts)
9 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA (18,260 thefts)
10. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA (17,221 thefts)

To be fair, the results of the study aren't entirely surprising. California has more people and more cars on the road than any other state. It stands to reason that car thefts would be most common there.

At the bottom of the rankings, we find many smaller metro areas in the Midwest and along the central Atlantic coast. 

380. State College, PA (36, or 22.42 per 100,000 residents)
379. Salisbury, MD-DE (92, or 23.27 per 100,000 residents)
378. Sheboygan, WI (27, or 23.36 per 100,000 residents)
377. Ithaca, NY (26, or 24.78 per 100,000 residents)
376. Midland, MI (21, or 25.11 per 100,000 residents)
375. Altoona, PA (38, or 30.26 per 100,000 residents)
374. Glens Falls, NY (39, or 30.73 per 100,000 residents)
373. Watertown-Fort Drum, NY (38, or 32.30 per 100,000 residents)
372. Kingston, NY (59, or 32.75 per 100,000 residents)
371. Harrisonburg, VA (43, or 32.79 per 100,000 residents)

Want to avoid becoming a victim of car thieves? The NICB has four important suggestions:

1. Use common sense. Park in well-lit areas, lock your car doors, and of course, take your keys.

2. Use a warning device. This might be an audible deterrent like a car alarm or a visual deterrent like decals that let would-be thieves know your car is protected.

3. Use an immobilizing device. Kill switches are a common go-to in this area, but with technological advances, we've seen other offerings like smart keys. 

4. Use a tracking device. This might be a GPS device that you install on the vehicle, or it might come as part of a telematics service like OnStar. 

Whatever you do, remember: summer is prime time for car theft. Be prepared, or be prepared to file a report.

Want to see how your own hometown ranks in terms of auto thefts? Visit

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