July Is a Hot Month for Car Thefts

CarTheft_3.2.jpg illustration by Paul Dolan

With summer upon us and COVID-19 restrictions mostly behind us, many people will be hitting the road to celebrate — including car thieves. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one vehicle was stolen every 44 seconds in 2019 for a total of about 722,000 vehicles and summer is the most popular season for theft. Recent data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau indicates that the trend is on the rise, with car thefts increasing across the U.S. in almost every major city in 2020. 

Related: Criminals Don’t Take a Holiday: The 11 Biggest Holidays for Auto Theft

July is NHTSA’s National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month, a time when the agency aims to raise awareness and curb a trend worth an estimated $6 billion a year. NHTSA says nearly half of those thefts were due to driver error. 

NHTSA’s Prevention Tips 

  • Use commonsense precautions. Take your vehicle’s key; do not leave it in or on your vehicle. Close and lock all windows and doors when you park, and park in well-lit areas. Never leave valuables in your vehicle, especially if they can be seen from outside the vehicle.
  • Install an anti-theft device. Anti-theft systems and devices are designed to make vehicles more difficult to steal. There are many types to consider such as an immobilizing device that can prevent thieves from bypassing a vehicle’s ignition system and hot-wiring the vehicle. There are also lower-tech options such as a steering-wheel lock or an audio and visual system that honks the horn and flashes the lights if the car detects an unauthorized attempt to steal the vehicle. 
  • Invest in a vehicle recovery system. These devices use electronic transmission technology to help reveal the location of the stolen vehicle.
  • Make a plan. If your vehicle does get stolen, make sure you contact the police and your insurance company immediately. Be ready with the following information: license plate number; make, model and color of your vehicle; and vehicle identification number. Any other identifying characteristics crash damage or a bumper sticker also can help law enforcement find your car.

Which Cars Are Most Stolen? 

NHTSA keeps data on what parts are stolen most often from vehicles. Radios and wheel covers are popular items, but the agency cautions that thieves often take whatever they think will sell, including doors, engines, transmissions and airbags. 

Some vehicles are stolen more often than others and NHTSA tracks which models thieves prey on most. Use the agency’s tool to find your vehicle and assess your risk. NHTSA’s database spans from model-year 2004 through 2014. 

In 2019, the NICB reported that Ford F-Series full-size pickup trucks were the most stolen vehicle, overtaking the Honda Civic, which was bumped to the No. 2 spot. 

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