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These are the 'hot spots' for car thefts in the USA

Forbes logo Forbes 6/8/2017 Jim Gorzelany, Contributor

© Provided by Forbes Media LLC

When one thinks of Albuquerque, N.M. images of the bordering Sandia mountains, the legendary Rio Grande river that flows through the city, and an abundance of green chile peppers immediately come to mind. But there’s one more distinguishing feature that the residents of this picturesque southwestern city might not be as proud of.

Research

Albuquerque, specifically New Mexico’s Bernalillo county, topped the nation last year in terms of vehicle thefts per capita, moving up from second place in 2015, with 10,011 cars and trucks purloined among nearly 680,000 citizens. That’s according to the annual “Hot Spots” list compiled by the National Insurance Crime Bureau in Des Plaines. IL.

Meanwhile, the burg boasting the highest number of auto thefts overall is the car-crowded Los Angeles/Long Beach/Anaheim area of California, with a whopping 60,000 vehicles pinched in 2016 (though it still places just 35th in the nation on a per capita basis). The Golden State again leads the U.S. in car thefts, on both the NICB’s per-capita hot spots and total vehicle theft lists, with six out of 10 slots placed in the former, and the top three in the latter.

Cities seeing the most rapid-paced acceleration in per-capita thefts include Anchorage, AK, which jumped from 47th place in 2015 to the 6th spot last year, and Merced, CA And Billings, MT, which were tied for 21st place in 2015, but broke into the top 10 last year. The metro area having the fewest number of cars stolen last year – a total of just one – was the Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, corridor in Hawaii.

On the one hand, vehicle theft rose nationwide by 6.6% last year (to around an estimated 754,500 incidents), but on the other hand that number is still considerably lower than it was back in 1991 when nearly 1,700,000 units illegally changed hands. Much of the steep reduction over the past quarter century has to do with the proliferation of so-called smart keys and keyless fobs that incorporate anti-theft technology.

Unfortunately, all the gizmos in the universe won’t stop a thief if a car’s careless owner leaves the keys in the ignition or sitting in a cupholder; according to the NICB around 57,100 vehicles were reported stolen with the keys left in them in 2015.

Here’s the NICB’s list of the nation’s “Hot Spots” having the most vehicle thefts per capita during 2016, with the number of reported thefts in parentheses:

  1. Albuquerque, N.M. (10,011)
  2. Pueblo, CO (1,325)
  3. Bakersfield, CA (7,176)
  4. Modesto, CA (3,820)
  5. Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, CA (25,708)
  6. Anchorage, AL (2,273)
  7. Merced, CA (1,605)
  8. San Francisco/Oakland/Hayward, CA (29,414)
  9. Fresno, CA (5,682)
  10. Billings, MT (877)

And here are the U.S. metro areas that suffered the highest number of auto thefts overall in 2016:

  1. Los Angeles/Long Beach/Anaheim, CA (60,670)
  2. San Francisco/Oakland/Hayward, CA (29,414)
  3. Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, CA (25,708)
  4. Houston/The Woodlands/Sugar Land, TX (25,069)
  5. Chicago/Naperville/Elgin, Il (22,853)
  6. New York/Newark/Jersey City, NY/NJ (21,145)
  7. Seattle/Tacoma/Belleview, WA (20,704)
  8. Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington, TX (20,229)
  9. Miami/Fort Lauderdale/West Palm Beach, FL (20,207)
  10. Atlanta/Sandy Springs/Roswell, GA (19,220)

As always, the NICB recommends owners take the usual precautions to ensure their cars aren’t driven away and/or dismantled and sold off for parts. These include taking the keys from the ignition when the vehicle is unattended, keeping the windows and sunroof closed and parking it in a well-lit and well-traveled area, and use an antitheft device, however basic. At the least the latter should include an ignition kill switch or fuel cutoff device to make it that much more difficult for a crook to start a car or truck and drive it away.

The NICB’s full Hot Spots report can be found at www.nicb.com.

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