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Top cities for auto theft

By Ryan Hurlbert on June 23rd, 2010
Auto Insurance

A vehicle is stolen in the United States every 33 seconds--that's nearly 1,000,000 vehicles a year.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) tracks auto theft, and publishes a "Hot Spots" list annually. The list shows the auto theft rates on a per-capita basis in metro areas around the United States. A Metropolitan Statistical Unit (MSA) contains a major urbanized area with a population of at least 50,000 people and the surrounding area it serves--there are 366 MSAs in the United States. Theft rates are expressed as auto thefts per 100,000 people, so a theft rate of 500 would mean that 5 of every 1,000 people had their car stolen.

The good news is that 83 percent of MSAs reported a drop in vehicle thefts. The bad news is a lot of cars are still being stolen. Laredo, Texas grabbed the top spot in 2009 with a rate of 742.22 thefts per 100,000 people. Contrast that with bottom-of-the-list State College, Pennsylvania, where the theft rate was only 25.31.

The top-20 MSAs in 2009 were:

1

Laredo, TX

742.22

2

Modesto, CA

727.29

3

Bakersfield, CA

684.91

4

Stockton, CA

663.69

5

Fresno, CA

641.89

6

Yakima, WA

637.93

7

San Francisco, CA

610.81

8

Visalia, CA

567.88

9

Las Vegas, NV

562.63

10

Albuquerque, NM

561.25

11

Sacramento, CA

559.66

12

Detroit, MI

536.01

13

San Diego, CA

518.60

14

El Centro, CA

509.97

15

Columbus, GA

500.01

16

Vallejo, CA

493.08

17

Riverside, CA

489.49

18

Spokane, WA

473.24

19

Jackson, MS

469.99

20

Macon, GA

451.26

Auto theft is covered by your comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance policy. If you don't have comprehensive coverage, you must cover the entire cost of theft. Be sure to consider whether or not you can afford to replace your vehicle before deciding to exclude comprehensive coverage from your auto policy.

Tips to keep your car safe from auto theft

The NICB recommends a layered approach to protecting yourself against auto theft.

  • Use Common Sense: Lock your doors, and take your keys with you. Park in well-lit areas where a thief can't work in seclusion. Don't warm or cool your car in your driveway unless you are sitting in it.

  • Warning Devices: An audible alarm alerts you to a break-in or attempted break-in, but don't count on your neighbors to call the police for you. Most people listen long enough to determine if it is their car or not, then ignore the sound if the car belongs to someone else. Clubs, steering wheel covers, tire locks, steering wheel and pedal locks, VIN etching, warning stickers or flashing lights might cause a thief to look for an easier target.

  • Immobilizing Devices: These devices keep a thief from bypassing your ignition system to start the car. "Smart Keys," fuse cut-off switches, kill switches, disablers on fuel pumps and ignitions and wireless ignition authentication can help foil a thief's attempt to hot-wire or jiggle-key your car.

  • Tracking devices: There are several after-market GPS-based tracking systems available, and LoJack, to help police track and recover your car when all other layers of protection break down and your car is stolen. The latest offerings from vehicle manufacturers can even slow the car to a stop, and turn it off. Make sure to understand the limitations of the system you are considering for the area you live in to ensure you get the protection you paid for.

Auto theft may be on the decline in most areas of the country, but it is still a major problem. Be sure to follow the layered approach to keep your car safe. And remember, if you can't afford to replace your car, consider adding comprehensive coverage to your auto insurance policy.

See average annual insurance rates for more than 2,000 vehicles

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