By Matt Schmitz on June 26, 2013
In 1964, California crooners the Beach Boys sang about having "fun, fun, fun, 'til her daddy takes the T-bird away." Well, nearly 50 years later, Golden State residents still have to worry about someone snatching their ride from them — but it's not their daddy. The Des Plaines, Ill.-based National Insurance Crime Bureau has released its "Hot Spots" vehicle-theft report for 2012, and California once again dominates as a "hotbed for hot cars."
Of the top 10 hot spots for per-capita vehicle theft, California lays claim to eight, and the state of Washington to the balance. The NICB's list reviews vehicle thefts from the nation's metropolitan statistical areas; its data mirrors preliminary FBI vehicle-theft data for the same period. While there's nothing new in West Coast domination of the list, this year is special in that the 1.3% spike is the first annual increase following an eight-year downward trend in the crime, the NICB reported. The FBI will publish its final numbers in the fall.
The designated West region — composed of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming — in 2012 experienced a 10.6% increase in vehicle thefts compared with 2011, bringing the entire nation's average up despite declines elsewhere. The Midwest, Northeast and South reported reductions of 3.1%, 7.9% and 2.9%, respectively.
Last year's second-place finisher, Modesto, Calif., wrested control of the No. 1 spot from Fresno, Calif., knocking it down one spot; Modesto had 4,260 thefts for a rate of 816.52 per 100,000 population, while Fresno had 7,563 thefts but a lower rate of 797.87 due to its greater population. Newcomers to this year's list are the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., area at No. 7, up from No. 20 last year, as well as Redding, Calif., all the way up to No. 10 from No. 40 in 2011. The Midland, Mich., and Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii, areas boasted the fewest car thefts, with fewer than 20 each and a rate of less than 22.
The NICB advises motorists to take precautions against vehicle theft starting with common-sense measures like removing keys from the ignition, locking doors and closing windows, and parking in well-lit areas. Beyond that, bigger and better anti-theft measures include installing a warning device such as a car alarm, using immobilizing devices such as a smart key or fuse cutoffs and using a tracking device that emits a signal to authorities if the vehicle is stolen.
The NICB's 2012 top 10 theft Hot Spots, followed by each area's rank the previous year, are:
10. Redding, Calif. (40)
9. Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash. (4)
8. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif. (9)
7. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (20)
6. San Francisco/Oakland/Hayward, Calif. (6)
5. Yakima, Wash. (5)
4. Stockton, Calif. (7)
3. Bakersfield-Delano, Calif. (3)
2. Fresno, Calif. (1)
1. Modesto, Calif. (2)
News Editor Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt