10 Places With the Highest Rates of Car Theft in the U.S.

On January 30, 2017 By admin

Which U.S. city has the highest incidence of car theft? You’ll want to make sure your auto insurance in Albuquerque covers theft because that’s where your ride is most likely to get jacked, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) annual Hot Spots report.

Perhaps it’s the proximity to the US-Mexico border that makes it easier for car thieves to escape local law enforcement. Albuquerque, New Mexico has reported 7,146 cases of auto theft in 2018.

To be fair, though, Albuquerque, New Mexico has already implemented a good number of initiatives– such as the creation of a statewide Auto Theft Prevention Task Authority– to curb auto theft, reducing its figures by over 28 per cent since 2016. 

RELATED: “Why are Car Dealerships Particularly Appealing to Thieves and Robbers?”

Here’s the NICB’s list of the 10 U.S. metropolitan areas having the largest per-capita car theft rates and the number of vehicles reported stolen in 2018:

  1. Albuquerque, New Mexico: 7,146
  2. Anchorage, Alaska: 3,087
  3. Bakersfield, California: 6,748
  4. Pueblo, Colorado: 1,175
  5. Modesto, California: 3,428
  6. Redding, California: 1,037
  7. Stockton, California: 4,287
  8. Wichita, Kansas: 3,547
  9. Vallejo, California: 2,404
  10. St. Joseph, Missouri: 674

No surprise that California has five cities in this list of auto theft hotspots: Bakersfield, Modesto, Redding, Stockton, and Vallejo.  California certainly loves its cars– in 2017, there was a total number of approximately 14.6 million automobiles registered in the state.

Lamorghini Gallardo

Are More Cars Stolen in Bigger Cities?

You’d think big Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) like New York City or Chicago might have the largest number of auto theft incidents. In a way, they do– the NICB reports that these big cities do have a large number of car crimes (New York City has 19,789 incidents, while Chicago has 22,688).

It’s actually the smaller cities with fewer residents that report a higher per-capita frequency of auto theft rather than the more densely populated urban centers.

Compare, for example, Los Angeles, CA and St. Joseph, MO. While L.A. has reported some 54,000 vehicles stolen in 2018, those incidents are actually spread out over a large populace (about 4 million in 2017) and a large territory. 

On the other hand, the much smaller city of St. Joseph, Missouri (population of around 74,000 in 2017), is ranked at number 10 on the NICB list with only 938 vehicles stolen. 

How Have The Country’s Biggest Cities Fared in This Report?

Here’s a list of the nation’s ten largest cities, with their place on the recent NICB Hot Spots report (indicating their number of car thefts per 10,000 residents), and the total reported stolen vehicles in 2018:

38. Los Angeles, California: 53,928
66. San Diego, California: 11,091
57. Houston, Texas: 24,481
78. San Antonio, Texas: 7,993
83. Dallas, Texas: 23,261
98. Phoenix, Arizona: 13,469
115. San Jose, California: 5,160
133. Chicago, Illinois: 22,688
193. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 11,214
299. New York City, New York: 19,789

Honda Civic in gasoline station

Which Cars are Favored by Auto Crime Syndicates?

According to the NICB, it’s the older vehicles, particularly those that had been sold in large numbers (which makes them more common), continue to be those most likely to be targeted by car thieves.

Such vehicles include:

  • The Honda Accord and Civic
  • The Toyota Camry and Corolla
  • The Chevrolet Silverado
  • The Ford F-150 
  • The GMC Sierra 
  • Dodge/Ram full-size pickup trucks

Vehicles stolen in this manner are typically driven, towed, or otherwise transported to chop shops where components can be salvaged and harvested, and then sold to either shady auto parts merchants or unsuspecting customers online via sites like Craigslist or eBay.

Have The Number of Overall Car Crimes Increased?

It is worth noting that overall, the FBI has reported that car thefts have actually decreased by 3.3 per cent last year, and by a whopping 53 per cent since they peaked in 2004.

The reason for this drop has been largely attributed to advancements in smart keyless technology; car engines will only start when it recognizes a special chip embedded within a corresponding fob. 

On the flip side, the NICB has also reported that some 229,339 vehicles were taken from 2016-2018 simply due to sheer negligence. An average of 209 cars and trucks have been pilfered per day because their owners either left the keys in the ignition or had the keyless-entry key fob sitting in a bin or cup holder while parked.

(Source:’s “These Are The Cities With The Highest Car Theft Rates”)

The NICB Hot Spots Report

The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s Hot Spots report ranks 383 metropolitan areas all over the United States according to their auto theft frequency relative to population. 

Data has mostly been from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s preliminary Uniform Crime Report based on thefts reported during the first six months of 2018.

You can read the NICB’s full report here. It has a complete list of all 383 ranked cities, with car crimes broken down by areas in each state.



RELATED: Car Dealership Cut Down On Auto Theft Without Needing Security Guards.


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