Overall Thefts Cool, But California Remains Top Spot for Vehicle Thefts

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported that 2008 marked the nation’s fifth consecutive year of declining vehicle thefts in the United States. Although most areas experienced a reduction in vehicle theft, there were several noteworthy exceptions in states that border Mexico.

For 2008, the 10 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) with the highest vehicle theft rates are:

1. Modesto, Calif.
2. Laredo, Texas
3. Yakima, Wash.
4. San Diego/Carlsbad/San Marcos, Calif.
5. Bakersfield, Calif.
6. Stockton, Calif.
7. Las Vegas/Paradise, Nev.
8. Albuquerque, N.M.
9. San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont, Calif.
10. Fresno, Calif.

The Texas MSAs of El Paso, Laredo and San Antonio along with Las Cruces in New Mexico each saw an increase in 2008. California ranks No. 1 in total thefts.

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 MSA includes the entire county of Stanislaus and other municipalities in addition to the city of Modesto.

The rate is determined by the number of vehicle theft offenses per 100,000 inhabitants using the 2008 U.S. Census Population Estimates, the most current figures available.

Preliminary 2008 crime data released by the FBI in January indicates that 2008 will post a double-digit decline in vehicle theft when final numbers are released in the fall. If the preliminary figure of -12.6 percent holds, it will be the largest single year percent drop in thefts since 1999.

“This is a mixed bag of good news and bad news on the vehicle theft front,” said Joe Wehrle, NICB president and CEO. “The good news is, we’re seeing steady progress in reducing the overall theft rate and that means Americans aren’t shelling out as much to cover the cost of stolen vehicles in their insurance premiums. We’ve also seen significant decreases in key areas along the border such as San Diego, where thefts dropped nearly 20 percent.

“The bad news is that the theft rate continues to increase in areas like El Paso and Laredo where many of the cars, trucks and SUVs being stolen are being used to carry drugs, money and weapons into and out of Mexico,” he continued. “These vehicle thefts are helping finance the drug cartels that are waging war on the Mexican government.

“NICB has a long history of working with U.S. and Mexican authorities to recover and return stolen vehicles — more than 4,000 last year alone. We strongly support efforts at the federal and state levels to reduce the flow of stolen vehicles across the border.”

NICB recommends the following actions under its “layered approach” to vehicle theft protection:

Common Sense — The common sense approach to protection is the simplest and most cost-effective way to thwart would-be thieves. Secure your vehicle even if parking for brief periods. Owners should always:
-Remove their keys from the ignition
-Lock your doors /close windows
-Park in a well-lit area

Warning Device — The second layer of protection is a visible or audible device which alerts thieves that a vehicle is protected. Popular second layer devices include:
-Audible alarms
-Steering column collars
-Steering wheel/brake pedal lock
-Brake locks
-Wheel locks
-Tire locks/tire deflators
-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. Popular third layer devices include:
-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” that 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.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau: headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., is the nation’s leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through information analysis, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness. The NICB is supported by more than 1,000 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations.

For the complete information on Hot Spots, visit www.nicb.org.

Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau