South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Area Still Popular with Car Thieves

The Grand Strand again ranks first in the Southeast in vehicles stolen per capita, with the Myrtle Beach area among seven of South Carolina’s metro areas posting higher rankings, according to a report.

The Myrtle Beach area ranked 15th nationally in the 2008 “Hot Spots” report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, with 616 thefts per 100,000 people, using the latest Census estimates. That’s up from 23rd last year, also a top ranking for the Southeast.

Modesto, Calif., topped the nation for the second consecutive year, with a theft rate of 829 vehicles. California metro areas accounted for half of the nation’s top 10 list.

Bureau officials attribute Myrtle Beach’s high ranking to being a tourist destination and hosting large events. A spokesman for Horry County Police did not return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.

“The rest of the country seemed to improve, but we didn’t,” said Allison Dean Love, spokeswoman for the South Carolina Insurance News Service.

The number of vehicles stolen in South Carolina remains steady, and statistics show the crimes are increasing in several areas, she said.

Other cities ranking in the top 50 include Anderson, Sumter, Columbia, and the Charlotte, N.C., metro area, which includes York County. Love said she could not separate out York County statistics. Similarly, Aiken and Edgefield counties are included in the Augusta, Ga., metro area, which ranks 56th.

Vehicle theft rates can lead to higher insurance costs for drivers, so investigate which cars are more likely to be stolen before you buy a car, Love said.

Vehicle thefts cost car owners and insurance companies more than $7 billion each year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

“Buy a car that’s safe and not prone to theft, and use common sense,” she said. “You’ll pay less on the comprehensive portion of your car insurance.”