The Auto Theft Capital

When Horace Greeley said, "Go West, young man," car thieves were apparently listening.  According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) for calendar year 2005, the West, and particularly California, is heaven and haven for the nation's auto thieves. All of the nation's top 10 areas with the highest vehicle theft rates are in the West with six of them in California.

For 2005 the 10 metropolitan statistical areas with the highest vehicle theft rates are:
1. Modesto, CA
2. Las Vegas/Paradise, NV
3. Stockton, CA
4. Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale, AZ
5. Visalia/Porterville, CA
6. Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue, WA
7. Sacramento/Arden-Arcade/Roseville, CA
8. San Diego/Carlsbad/San Marcos, CA
9. Fresno, CA
10. Yakima, WA

The rate is determined by the number of vehicle theft offenses per 100,000 inhabitants using the 2004 U.S. Census Population Estimates, the most current figures available.
Preliminary FBI data shows a 2.1 percent decrease in motor vehicle thefts during January-June 2005 when compared with the same period in 2004. Nationally, this is the second straight year of decreases in vehicle theft and that is good news.

One note about the statistics, as well -- they are indicative of the auto theft rates in what laymen might call "metropolitan areas," not just cities.  So, for example, the numero uno on the list -- Modesto, California -- includes data not only from the city of Modesto, but the entire county of Stanislaus in which Modesto is located.  In the creation of Hot Spots, its annual report on auto theft rates, NICB reviewed data supplied by the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) for each of the nation's 360 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs).  While thefts are down slightly on a national basis, they are still cause for alarm.

"The continued reduction in auto thefts is good news for our member companies and the general public," said NICB President and Chief Executive Officer Robert M. Bryant. "NICB has been instrumental in attacking this problem through expanded efforts with our member companies and law enforcement. For example, the bait car program is most effective and in those communities where bait cars are employed, there have been significant declines in the auto theft problem."

While the NICB is attacking the problem on a macro basis, you can do the same by protecting the safety and security of your own vehicle.  We'll tell you how next week in the second of this two-part series.

Driving Today Contributing Editor Tom Ripley writes about the car industry and the human condition, which includes crime and unusual uses for body hair, from his home in Villeperce, France.