NICB Says Car Thieves Find a Smooth Ride in California; 6 of Top 10 Hot Spots in Golden State

November 15, 2004

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported Monday that for calendar year 2003, car thieves were most active in California.

Six of the nation’s 10 hottest spots for vehicle theft rates are in California, while the remaining four are Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz;
Las Vegas, Nev; Miami, Fla; and Detroit, Mich.

For 2003, the 10 metropolitan statistical areas with the highest vehicle
theft rates were:

1. Modesto, Calif.

2. Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz.

3. Stockton-Lodi, Calif.

4. Las Vegas, Nev.

5. Sacramento, Calif.

6. Fresno, Calif.

7. Oakland, Calif.

8. Miami, Fla.

9. San Diego, Calif.

10. Detroit, Mich.

According to Hot Spots 2003, its annual report on auto thefts, NICB
reviewed data supplied by the FBI for each of the country’s 336 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). MSAs are designated by the Office of Management and Budget using Census 2000 data, and may include areas surrounding a specific city.

For example, the number one Hot Spot in the current report is Modesto, Calif. The Modesto MSA, however, includes data not only from the city of Modesto, but the entire county of Stanislaus in which Modesto is located.

The rate is determined by the number of vehicle theft offenses per 100,000 inhabitants.

When compared with the data from 2002, Hot Spots 2003 contains some good news as well. For example, the MSAs of Seattle and Tacoma, Wash. (numbers nine and 10, respectively in 2002) fell from the top 10 list completely, and replaced by newcomers San Diego, Calif. and Detroit, Mich., ninth and 10th place, respectively.

Meanwhile, Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz. dropped from first to second place and Miami, Fla., moved from sixth to eighth place.

After declining steadily through 1999, vehicle thefts began creeping
upward in 2000 with a dramatic increase in 2001. In 2001, an estimated 1,228,391 vehicles were stolen which was an increase of 68,389 thefts over 2000. In 2003, an estimated 1,260,471 vehicles were reported stolen which was an increase of 13,825 from 2002. So while the incidents of theft are up, the rate of increase has been trending in a positive direction.

“The victim of a vehicle theft is hardly consoled by positive statistical
trends,” advised NICB President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Bryant. “With over 1.2 million vehicles stolen annually in the United States, the loss to owners and insurance companies is over $8 billion. That amount of money makes it a lucrative endeavor for organized rings and professional operators. With recovery rates dropping, that signals the more insidious problems of exportation and surgical dismantlement — the former feeds the foreign demand for vehicles, while the latter feeds the domestic black market for replacement parts.

“NICB has teamed with law enforcement entities at border areas and
elsewhere, and is actively engaged in a number of vehicle theft education, enforcement, and recovery operations throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada,” Bryant said.

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