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10 Cities Where You’re Most Likely To Get Your Car Stolen (And It’s Not Where You Think It Is)

What Are The Top Cities For Car Theft And How Can You Prevent Your Wheels From Getting Stolen?

Updated September 27, 2018

The 10 top cities for car theft list has been released and you’re not going to believe which cities are and aren’t on the roster (hint: not NY City).

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Let’s get straight to it. The worst area is California’s San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward area, which had the nation’s highest per capita vehicle theft rate in 2014, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) latest Hot Spots report.

For 2014, the 10 areas with the highest vehicle theft rates per person were: (number of thefts in parentheses)

1. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. (29,093)
2. Bakersfield, Calif. (5,211)
3. Stockton-Lodi, Calif. (4,245)
4. Odessa, Texas (886)
5. Modesto, Calif. (3,047)
6. Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash. (3,032)
7. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif. (2,414)
8. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash. (20,268)
9. Fresno, Calif. (5,260)
10. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (10,531)

So let’s see, add San Jose to the San Francisco numbers and that’s 39,624 cars per year, or 108 cars a day. Now why isn’t traffic any better?

Add the other NorCal cities (Stockton, Modesto, and Fresno) and the total jumps to 44,059. No wonder residents of the Bay Area have jumped on Uber in such a big way.

The only areas in the Top 10 outside of California were Odessa, TX (represent!), and Seattle-Tacoma and Spokane, WA.

That’s not to say we’re in an epidemic of car theft. In fact, vehicle thefts are down dramatically around the nation, though the reasons cars and trucks are stolen remain the same. Older vehicles are stolen primarily for their parts value while newer, high-end vehicles often are shipped overseas or, after some disguising, sold to an innocent buyer locally.

However, you don’t want your car stolen for several reasons. First, if it’s stolen and not recovered, your insurance company will pay you book value for your car, regardless if it’s in pristine condition, has $8000 in wheels and tires, or you still owe money on the loan – unless you’d made prior arrangements with your insurance carrier to cover these items.

Second, if you’re car is recovered, you have no idea what’s been going on in there since you last saw it. From cigarette smoke orders that’s a pain to clear to the risk that it was used as a rolling meth lab. The only way to avoid these outcomes (other than not getting your car stolen) is with Layer Four, below.
Our new friends at the NICB have some really good advice to share. They recommend that drivers follow our four “layers of protection” to guard against vehicle theft: (sounds a little corny, but the advice is good — read on):

How To NOT Get Your Car Stolen!

Layer 1. Common Sense

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The common sense approach to protection is the easiest and most cost-effective way to thwart would-be thieves. You should always:
· Remove your keys from the ignition
· Lock your doors /close your windows
· Park in a well-lit area

Layer Two: Warning Device

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The second layer of protection is a visible or audible device which alerts thieves that your vehicle is protected. Popular devices include:
· Audible alarms
· Steering column collars
· Steering wheel/brake pedal lock
· Brake locks
· Wheel locks
· Theft deterrent decals
· Identification markers in or on vehicle
· VIN etching
· Micro dot marking

Layer Three: Immobilizing Device

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The third layer of protection is a device which prevents thieves from bypassing your ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some electronic devices have computer chips in ignition keys. Other devices inhibit the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until a hidden switch or button is activated. Some examples are:
· Smart keys
· Fuse cut-offs
· Kill switches
· Starter, ignition, and fuel pump disablers
· Wireless ignition authentication

Layer Four: Tracking Device

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The final layer of protection is a tracking device which emits a signal to police or a monitoring station when the vehicle is stolen. Tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles. Some systems employ “telematics” which combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of a vehicle. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked via computer.

Oh yeah, Layer Five: Don’t park your car in the Bay Area.

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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