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Car Thieves Take the Bait

Top U.S. Cities with the Highest Vehicle Theft Rates

Where is your car most likely to get stolen? In Las Vegas, Nev., according to recent statistics released by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). After a three-year run, Sin City has fallen into the dreaded top position formerly belonging to Modesto, Calif.

Since 2005, West Coast states have ranked the highest in auto theft rates, with five top vehicle theft cities resting in California alone.

The NICB recently released its 2006 statistics, ranking 10 of the country's top metropolitan cities with the highest vehicle theft rates. As of 2006, the top 10 vehicle theft cities include:

1. Las Vegas/Paradise, Nev.
2. Stockton, Calif.
3. Visalia/Porterville, Calif.
4. Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale, Ariz.
5. Modesto, Calif.
6. Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue, Wash.
7. Sacramento/Arden-Arcade/Roseville, Calif.
8. Fresno, Calif.
9. Yakima, Wash.
10. Tucson, Ariz.

The top 10 cities were compiled using data supplied by the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Statistics from each of the nation's 361 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) were combined with the number of vehicle theft offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, as reported by the 2005 U.S. Census Population Estimates. These current figures produced cities with the largest vehicle theft rates based on population.

According to Robert M. Bryant, NICB president and chief executive officer, drivers can prevent vehicle thefts, even in high-crime areas.

"People can take any number of precautions to protect themselves from vehicle theft and, in most cases, those are sufficient to prevent a theft," Bryant said. "But a determined thief, a serial vehicle thief, is someone for whom there is no absolute deterrent — except prison."

The NICB provides drivers with a "layered approach" to protecting their vehicles and minimizing their risk of car theft.

Common Sense — An unlocked vehicle with a key in the ignition is an open invitation to any thief, regardless of which anti-theft device you use. The common sense approach to protection is the simplest and most cost-effective way to thwart would-be thieves. Secure your vehicle even if parking for brief periods.


  • Remove your keys from the ignition

  • Lock your doors and close your windows

  • Park in a well-lit area

Warning Devices — The second layer of protection is a visible or audible device alerting thieves that your vehicle is protected. Popular vehicle warning devices include:

  • Audible alarms

  • Steering column collars

  • Steering wheel or brake pedal locks

  • Brake locks

  • Wheel locks

  • Tire locks or deflators

  • Theft deterrent decals

  • Identification markers in or on vehicles

  • VIN etching

  • Micro dot marking

Immobilizing Device — An additional layer of protection for vehicles is an immobilizing device, which prevents thieves from bypassing the ignition and hot-wiring your car. Some electronic devices have computer chips inside the ignition keys, while other devices inhibit the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine. Immobilizing devices available include:

  • Smart keys

  • Fuse cut-offs

  • Kill switches

  • Starter, ignition and fuel pump disablers

  • Wireless ignition authentication

Tracking Device — A final layer of protection is a vehicle tracking device, which signals to police or a monitoring station when a vehicle is stolen. These tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles. Some of the available systems employ "telematics," which combine global positioning systems (GPS) and wireless technologies for remote monitoring. If a vehicle moves, the system alerts the owner and tracks the vehicle via computer.

For more information on car theft rates or what you can do to protect yourself, visit National Insurance Crime Bureau.