California Is the Golden State...for Car Thieves

While vehicle theft is on track to reach its lowest levels in nearly a half-century, the state of California now lays claim to more "hot spots" for the crime than ever. Golden State metropolitan areas occupy a record nine of the top 10 spots on the Des Plaines, Ill.,-based National Insurance Crime Bureau's annual top 10 list, which examines data from the National Crime Information Center.

Led by the Bakersfield, Calif., metro area — unseating last year's unfortunate victor, Modesto, Calif. — the only spot on the top 10 not occupied by the most populous state in the U.S. is No. 7, where the Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash., area ranks on this year’s all-West Coast-all-the-time roster.

California Residents Ask, 'Dude, Where's My Car?'

NICB notes that its population-based survey yields per capita theft rates for broad metropolitan statistical areas, so one area won't necessarily rank higher than another just because it has more residents. That's cold comfort for California, as its share of the car-theft pie continues to grow each year.

"Although California tends to place high in this report, this is the first time that California has held nine of the top 10 spots for MSAs with the highest per capita vehicle theft rates," NICB said in its report. "In 2012, it held eight and in 2011, seven."

Still, if the most recent data available from the FBI covering the first six months of 2013 holds for the balance of the year, the national car-theft rate will re-embark on a downward trend that went unbroken for eight years until a small spike in 2012. Currently, the first half of last year is showing a 3.2 percent dip and could wind up logging the fewest car thefts since 1967. Incidentally, that's about 17 years before the century-old NICB published its first Hot Spots Vehicle Theft Report; this year marks its 30th anniversary.

Here are the NICB's top 10 car-theft hot spots for 2013, followed by those areas' previous ranks in 2012:

  • 1. Bakersfield, Calif. (3)
  • 2. Fresno, Calif. (2)
  • 3. Modesto, Calif. (1)
  • 4. San Francisco/Oakland/Hayward, Calif. (6)
  • 5. Stockton-Lodi, Calif. (4)
  • 6. Redding, Calif. (10)
  • 7. Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash. (9)
  • 8. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif. (8)
  • 9. San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, Calif. (7)
  • 10. Yuba City, Calif. (31)

NICB graphic

In The News Safety

News Editor Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers.  Email Matt