Is California the Auto Theft Capital of the World?

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The California Highway Patrol (CHP) released California auto theft numbers for 2014, and proudly noted a decline in theft rates for a second straight year. The number of vehicle thefts fell by 7 percent over 2013. However, despite the overall decline, California is still king when it comes to grand theft auto. But is California really the auto-theft capital of the world?

National Insurance Crime Bureau Report

It may sound like hyperbole, but it is a quote from Frank Scafidi, a spokesperson for the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). The NICB recently released their report on vehicle theft rates for 2014, comparing 380 metropolitan statistical areas across the country. Seven of the top 10 auto theft areas are in California, with the Bay Area topping the list.

  1. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
  2. Bakersfield, CA
  3. Stockton-Lodi, CA
  4. Odessa, TX
  5. Modesto, CA
  6. Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA
  7. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA
  8. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
  9. Fresno, CA
  10. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

Almost half of California’s automobile thefts occur in the southern counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego. Why does California get the dubious honor of being number 1 when it comes to car theft? According to Scafidi, “there’s just more cars, and the cars are in better shape because of the nicer weather.”

Vehicle Thefts in California Metro Areas

Even though California can still claim to be the hotbed of car theft, in most counties, the number of vehicle thefts fell from 2013 to 2014. Fresno comes in at number 9 in auto thefts per 100,000 people, but the number of thefts fell by more than 23% over the prior year. Vehicle thefts fell in all of the California metro areas which top the list, except for San Francisco, where thefts went up almost 15%.

Auto theft is a serious crime, and grand theft auto can be charged as a felony. Even joyriding can land you in prison for a year. Still, the stiff penalties haven’t prevented almost 160,000 cars from being stolen in California last year. The most popular car to steal? A 1996 Honda Accord. In fact, the top 17 cars stolen last year were all Honda Accords or Honda Civics. A Toyota pickup remain the top stolen truck, and has been since 1984.

Protect Yourself from Auto Theft

The NICB report recommends the “Layered Approach” to protection, including common sense, and things like tracking devices, warning alarms, and kill-switches to reduce the likelihood of vehicle theft. However, the CHP offers other advice, including not hiding a spare ignition key on the vehicle, and to take extra precautions when driving one of the popularly stolen cars.

According to CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow, “people need to remember that vehicle theft is a crime of opportunity. Simple deterrents such as locking vehicle doors, parking in a secure or highly visible location, and not leaving the car running unattended can make all the difference.”

Hope for Recovering from Auto Theft

Even if you have your car stolen, don’t give up hope, because nearly 90% of stolen vehicles are recovered. 65% of vehicles come back intact and drivable. In many California counties vehicle recovery rates have also been on the increase. However, others are stripped for parts, or shipped out of the country from our California ports.

If you are worried enough about having your car stolen, you can always move to State College, Pennsylvania. The college town boasted the lowest rate of car thefts, with only 21 vehicle thefts per 100,000 people. However, the low rate may be a result of it being home to Penn State, with many students getting around on foot or bike rather than by car.

The Kavinoky Law firm stays apprised of California law and statistics. We ensure we know all the current trends to help provide the best criminal defense in California. A great criminal defense attorney can handle criminal cases that range from petty theft to murder.

Don’t fight your defense on your own, call The Kavinoky Law Firm at 1.800.NO.CUFFS.

John Devendorf
John Devendorf
John Devendorf is a California barred attorney and graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law. He writes on a range of legal topics including criminal law, immigration, and legal marketing. While he is not a member of The Kavinoky Law Firm, we share his legal insights on topics important to our clients.