Is Your Town a Hot Spot for Vehicle Theft?

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With its abundant sunny days and enviable year-round climate, California in many ways is literally one massive hot spot. On the downside, it's also another sort of hot spot that's not so awesome — one for car thieves. When it comes to rates of auto theft as calculated annually by the Des Plaines, Ill.-based National Insurance Crime Bureau using data from the National Crime Information Center, the Golden State routinely occupies the bulk of the top 10, and this year's NICB Hot Spots report is no exception.

Related: It Took Eight Days for Our New Honda Fit to Get Its Wheels Stolen

California metropolitan areas defined and ranked by the study for their per-capita car-theft frequency account for seven of the top 10 (including the top three spots) and more than half of the top 25 among nearly 400 geographical areas measured. There was some movement in this highest tier, however, with the study's San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., area taking over the top spot from last year's No. 1, Bakersfield, Calif.

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, which came in fourth last year, this time posted 29,093 thefts, or 633 per 100,000 residents. Bakersfield came in at No. 2, with 5,211 thefts for a rate of 596 per 100,000, while Stockton-Lodi, Calif., rounded out the top three with 4,245 thefts, a rate of 593. Odessa, Texas, ranked fourth with 886 thefts and a rate of 576, while Modesto, Calif., landed at No. 5 with 3,047 thefts and a rate of 573.

NICB's survey is calculated to make it possible for an area with a much smaller population and moderate number of thefts to have a higher rate of incidence than an area with a greater theft problem and larger population to absorb it. For example, the measured metro areas of the three largest cities in the U.S. — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — land at Nos. 249, 39 and 122, respectively, while, for example, the Hot Springs, Ark., region, anchored by a city with a population of less than 36,000, is in the top 25.

Meanwhile, areas boasting the lowest rate of vehicle theft, are: State College, Pa., with only 34 thefts and a rate of 21 thefts per 100,000 residents; Ithaca, N.Y., with 24 thefts and a rate of 23; Watertown-Fort Drum, N.Y., with 28 thefts and a rate of 24; Glens Falls, N.Y., with 31 thefts and a rate of 24; and Salisbury, Md.-Del., with 99 thefts a rate of 25.

"Although vehicle thefts are down dramatically around the nation, the reasons they are stolen remain the same," NICB said in a statement. "Older vehicles are stolen primarily for their parts value while newer, high-end vehicles are shipped overseas or, after some disguising, sold to an innocent buyer.

"Others, meanwhile are still taken for the oldest of motivations - a 'joyride' and when the thrill is gone, it is abandoned undamaged."

Find out if your area ranks among the top 25 NICB vehicle-theft Hot Spots below, with the number of thefts followed by the rate per 100,000 residents:

1. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.; 29,093 thefts; 633 rate

2. Bakersfield, Calif.; 5,211, 596

3. Stockton-Lodi, Calif.; 4,245; 593

4. Odessa, Texas; 886; 576

5. Modesto, Calif.; 3,047; 573

6. Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash.; 3,032; 560

7. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.; 2,414; 560

8. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.; 20,268; 552

9. Fresno, Calif.; 5,260; 545

10.  San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.; 10,531; 539

11.  Salinas, Calif.; 2,270; 526

12.  Albuquerque, N.M.; 4,754; 526

13.  Redding, Calif.; 914; 508

14.  Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.; 21,264; 479

15.  Yakima, Wash.; 1,180; 476

16.  Salt Lake City, Utah; 5,211; 452

17.  Wichita, Kan.; 2,875; 449

18.  Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev.; 9,161; 443

19.  Chico, Calif.; 954; 425

20.  Visalia-Porterville, Calif.; 1,949; 425

21.  Merced, Calif.; 1,132; 425

22.  Hot Springs, Ark.; 406; 417

23.  Columbus, Ga.-Ala.; 1,275; 406

24.  Pueblo, Colo.; 654; 404

25.  Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wis.; 6,346; 404

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

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