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Modesto, Calif. is top 'hot spot' for car theft

By Barbara Marquand on July 7th, 2013

Modesto, Calif., is the car theft capital of the country, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau's latest "Hot Spots" list.

More vehicles were stolen per capita in the Central Valley city and surrounding area last year than any metropolitan statistical area in the country.

Other metro areas in the top 10 in descending order are:

  • Fresno, Calif.
  • Bakersfield-Delano, Calif.
  • Stockton, Calif.
  • Yakima, Wash.
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
  • Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.
  • Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash.
  • Redding, Calif.
Designated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, metropolitan statistical areas often encompass regions larger than the city after which they're named. Modesto, for instance, includes all of Stanislaus County.

Once again California dominated the NICB annual Hot Spots ranking, which this year is based on preliminary FBI statistics for 2012. Fresno, which was No. 1 on last year's Hot Spots list, slipped to No. 2, switching places with Modesto. All of the metro areas in the top 10 this year placed in the top 10 last year, except for Redding, Calif., which zipped up to No. 10 from No. 40, and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., which climbed to No. 7 from No. 20.

Head East to avoid car theft

The metro areas with the lowest vehicle theft rates per capita:

  • Midland, Mich.
  • State College, Penn.
  • Glens Falls, N.Y.
  • Ithaca, N.Y.
  • Salisbury, Md.

Nationwide, vehicle theft increased 1.3 percent last year, putting the brakes on an eight-year downward streak. But the increase wasn't across the board. The Midwest, Northeast and South all saw vehicle thefts drop in 2012, while the West saw thefts rise 10.6 percent. The West includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Law enforcement efforts as well as anti-theft technology have helped slow car theft. Thanks to smart-key systems and communications services like General Motors' OnStar, new cars are much tougher to steal today than 20 years ago. That's in part why the most frequently stolen cars are older models. The 1994 Honda Accord is the most stolen vehicle, according to the latest data from NICB.

You need comprehensive insurance to have coverage if your car is swiped. Like collision insurance, comprehensive insurance is optional. If you carry only liability insurance, then you'll have to pay for a replacement out of your own pocket or hope the police track down your car.

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

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