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County still has loads of vehicle thefts, but falls in national ranking
auto theft
NICB recommends drivers use warning devices like a steering column collar to prevent theft. - photo by Photo Contributed

For the second year in a row Stanislaus County has a lower ranking on the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s report on vehicle theft rates, with the current ranking falling below the top five.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s 2017 Hot Spot report on the top areas in the nation for vehicle thefts ranked the Modesto metropolitan area seventh for 2017. Last year, the area was in the number four spot and in 2015 it was the top location for vehicle thefts in the country.

The Modesto metropolitan area includes all of Stanislaus County.

In 2017, NCIB recorded 3,870 auto thefts in the region. The number is actually higher than the 3,820 recorded in 2016, but the Modesto metropolitan area landed lower on the list this year because other communities were experiencing increases.

As a population-based survey, an area with a much smaller population and a moderate number of thefts can—and often does—have a higher theft rate than an area with a much more significant vehicle theft problem and a larger population to absorb it. This is how St. Joseph, with 952 thefts, places 5th while Los Angeles, with 60,444 thefts places 33rd.

Laying claim to the top spot for auto thefts in the nation is Albuquerque, New Mexico, which had 9,989 reported vehicle thefts over 2017. The region was also ranked number one in 2016.

The Stockton-Lodi area, which includes all of San Joaquin County, was ranked in the 8th spot, with 4,575 reported vehicle thefts in 2017. The region was ranked 12th in 2016.

According to the NICB’s data, vehicle owners could be doing more to help curb thefts in their communities. The NICB found that for the years 2013 through 2015, a total of 147,434 vehicles were reported stolen with the keys left in them — 57,096 in 2015 alone.

“With the debut of ‘smart keys’ in 1997 and all of the improved anti-theft technology since, it is worthless if drivers continue to leave their keys in the car or leave their vehicles running, unattended, while they make a quick stop at a convenience store,” said NICB spokesperson Frank Scafidi in a news release.

Hot Spots examines vehicle theft data obtained from the National Crime Information Center for each of the nation’s metropolitan statistical area. MSAs are designated by the Office of Management and Budget and often include areas much larger than the cities for which they are named.

Each year the FBI releases preliminary Uniform Crime Report data for the previous year’s January–June time frame. When the preliminary 2017 crime data was released earlier this year, vehicle theft was up 4.1 percent across the nation.