Number of Vehicle Thefts with Keys Left Inside Growing Fast

March 26, 2019

U.S. motorists appear to forgetting one of the earliest lessons of car ownership: Don’t leave your keys in the car.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported on Monday that the number of vehicles that were stolen because drivers left their keys or fobs in their vehicles increased 56 percent over a three-year period, and 88 percent in the past five years. NICB said 229,339 vehicles were stolen in that manner from 2015 through 2018 — an average of 209 thefts per day.

“The number of thefts with keys or fobs left inside may be substantially higher since many drivers don’t admit to making the mistake, and it’s not reported in the police report or insurance claim,” the report says.

The increase in thefts with keys left inside contrasts with a declining overall vehicle theft rate. The NICB said total vehicle thefts have declined steeply since 2003, but there was an uptick in 2016 when 765,484 vehicles were reported stolen—an increase of 57,726 from 2015. According to Monday’s report, in that same year, 69,351 vehicles were stolen with keys or fobs left inside.

The NICB calls those “complacency thefts.” They accounted for nearly 9% of all car thefts in 2016. Complacency thefts accounted for 10% of all thefts in 2017. That compares to 6.2% of all thefts in 2013 and 6.7% in 2014.

The Las Vegas region from 2015 through 2018 was the top metropolitan area in the number of thefts with keys, with 11,073. The Miami region was No. 2 with 7,549, followed by Atlanta with 7,501, Chicago with 7,086 and Dallas with 6,603.

Out of the 229,339 vehicle thefts with keys, 5% (11,801) were unrecovered. By state, Texas had the most unrecovered vehicle thefts with keys with 1,256. Florida came in second with 914 unrecovered thefts and California was third with 831 unrecovered thefts with keys.

To produce the report, analysts reviewed data contained in the National Crime Information Center’s stolen vehicle file. Records were queried using thefts with keys and similar variants as search criteria.

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