Top 10 Metro Areas for Car Theft

July 12, 2018

The Albuquerque, New Mexico metropolitan statistical area (MSA) repeats as having the highest per capita auto theft rate in 2017, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) latest Hot Spots report.

New to the top 10 this year, the metro areas of St. Joseph, (No. 5) and Springfield, Missouri (No. 10).

NICB notes that an area with a much smaller population and a moderate number of thefts can—and often does—have a higher theft rate than an area with a much more significant vehicle theft problem and a larger population to absorb it. That is how St. Joseph, with 952 thefts, places 5th while Los Angeles, with 60,444 thefts, places 33rd.

Hot Spots 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, this year’s number one spot, the Albuquerque, N.M. MSA, includes all thefts within the entire county of Bernalillo, not just the city of Albuquerque.

For 2017, the 10 MSAs with the highest vehicle theft rates were: (thefts in parentheses)

2017 Ranking 2016 Ranking
1. Albuquerque, N.M. (9,989) 1 (10,011)
2. Anchorage, Alaska (3,274) 6 (2,273)
3. Pueblo, Colo. (1,353) 2 (1,325)
4. Redding, Calif. (1,352) 20 (1,011)
5. St. Joseph, Mo. (952) 28 (651)
6. Bakersfield, Calif. (6,560) 3 (7,176)
7. Modesto, Calif. (3,870) 4 (3,820)
8. Stockton-Lodi, Calif. (4,575) 12 (4,075)
9. Yuba City, Calif. (1,050) 30 (860)
10. Springfield, Mo. (2,686) 33 (2,142)

Each year the FBI releases preliminary Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data for the previous year’s January–June time frame. When the preliminary 2017 crime data was released earlier this year, vehicle theft was up 4.1 percent across the nation. NICB said that increase is reflected in this Hot Spots report and it expects that to hold when the final UCR 2017 crime data is published in the fall.

Year Preliminary
UCR %
change
Final UCR
vehicle theft
total
2017 +4.1
2016 +6.6 765,484
2015 +1.0 707,758
2014 -5.7 689,527
2013 -3.2 699,594
2012 +1.7 721,053
2011 -5.0 715,373
2010 -7.2 737,142
2009 -17.2 795,652
2008 -13.1 958,629
2007 -7.4 1,095,769

Overall, vehicle theft is down, dramatically, across the nation. The historic peak year for vehicle theft was 1991, with 1,661,738 reported thefts. In 2016, the total was 765,484. That is a 54 percent reduction since 1991.

While the final result for 2017 is expected to be higher than 2016’s number (although the rate of increase is decreasing), the vehicle theft environment across the country has improved significantly since the 1990s.

But it could be much better if vehicle owners just followed simple security advice, according to NICB. In a report published in October 2016, NICB found that for the years 2013 through 2015, a total of 147,434 vehicles were reported stolen with the keys left in them—57,096 in 2015 alone.

The NICB is supported by more than 1,100 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations.

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