It's Not Cool to Be a Hot Spot for Car Theft: What's Your Town's Temp?

CarTheft_3.2.jpg illustration by Paul Dolan

Summer is heating up across the U.S., but some cities are hotter than others when it comes to car theft. For the second year in a row, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that Albuquerque, N.M., and its surrounding metropolitan area had the highest per capita auto-theft rate in 2017, logging 9,989 thefts.

Related: How to Get Your Stolen Car Back

While the list was also heavy with many California-city repeats, two Midwest newbies joined this year, both from Missouri: St. Joseph (No. 5) and Springfield (No. 10). But how did these small Show-Me State cities, populations 76,901 and 165,138, respectively, outrank a massive, sprawling metropolis with millions and millions of residents?

The NICB’s annual Hot Spots report examines vehicle-theft data from the National Crime Information Center for each of the nation’s metropolitan areas. So, for example, Albuquerque’s number includes all thefts within the entire county of Bernalillo, not just the city of Albuquerque. As it’s a population-based survey, NICB said, an area with a much less populous area but a moderate number of thefts often has a higher theft rate than an area with more people and more car thefts.

The NICB’s auto-theft hot spots for 2017, followed by number of reported thefts are:

1. Albuquerque, N.M.  (9,989)

2. Anchorage, Alaska  (3,274)

3. Pueblo, Colo. (1,353)

4. Redding, Calif. (1,352)

5. St. Joseph, Mo. (952)

6. Bakersfield, Calif. (6,560)

7. Modesto, Calif. (3,870)

8. Stockton-Lodi, Calif. (4,575)

9. Yuba City, Calif. (1,050)

10. Springfield, Mo. (2,686)

On the other end of the stolen-car spectrum, places with the lowest auto-theft rate are:

1. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii (zero)

2. State College, Pa. (16)

3. Midland, Mich. (21)

4. Watertown-Fort Drum, N.Y. (30)

5. Glens Falls, N.Y. (37)

6. Salisbury, Md./Delaware (124)

7. Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, Va. (56)

8. Williamsport, Pa. (35)

9. Elmira, N.Y. (27)

10. Sheboygan, Wis. (37)

Although the news may be bad for New Mexico, California and Missouri, there are some bright spots in the report. While car theft climbed 4.1 percent in 2017, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, it is still down dramatically since its peak in 1991, when the number was 54 percent higher at 1,661,738 reported thefts.

The NICB argues that car owners can do better, however, starting with the simple step of making sure a car is locked. In a recent report, the agency found that from 2013-15, 147,434 vehicles were reported stolen with the keys left in them.

Aside from urging car owners to avoid leaving keys and fobs in their cars, it also encourages motorists to lock doors and close windows, park in well-lit areas, use some sort of visible or audible device such as a steering-column collar or an alarm, and consider using a tracking device that emits a signal police can use to hunt down a stolen car.’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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News Editor Jennifer Geiger joined the automotive industry in 2003, much to the delight of her Corvette-obsessed dad. Jennifer is an expert reviewer, certified car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats — many of them while driving a minivan. Email Jennifer Geiger

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