Car makers have tried several things over the years to keep cars from being stolen. Car keys date back to the early 1900s. They were more effective when all cars added doors. People have even clamped locks on their tires and braces on their steering wheels. Car theft protection became more effective with car alarms. Today, a few cars require people to use their finger prices.
Vehicle thieves have found way to thwart most car theft mechanisms, which is why car theft has not gone away. While it occurs everywhere, like most things, it varies from state to state and city to city.
Technically, motor vehicle theft can be either the theft or attempted theft of a vehicle, such as a car or ATV. Some experts attribute the rising rates of vehicle theft to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to vehicles sitting unattended and unused for longer stretches than usual.
The country’s rising rates of motor vehicle theft are being led by surges in some U.S. cities. Using data from the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the city where vehicle theft is rising fastest. Cities – defined as places with more than 25,000 people – are ranked by the year-over-year change in the number of reported vehicle thefts per 100,000 people in 2020. Among the cities we considered, the vehicle theft rate climbed anywhere from 205 incidents per 100,000 people to 491 per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, the national motor vehicle theft rate climbed by 25 incidents per 100,000 people in 2020.
Vehicle theft – along with larceny and burglary – is one component of the overall property crime category. Partially due to rising rates of vehicle theft, most of the cities on this list also reported an increase in the overall property crime rate in 2020.
The city were vehicle theft is rising fastest is San Rafael, California. Here are the details:
> Change in reported vehicle theft rate, 2019-2020: +490.7
> Vehicle-thefts reported in 2020: 500 — 154th highest of 1,124 cities
> Vehicle-thefts per 100K people in 2020: 854.5 — 33rd highest of 1,124 cities
> 1-yr. change in all property crime: +401.3 — 56th highest of 1,037 cities
> Property crimes per 100K people in 2020: 3,267.7 — 185th highest of 1,043 cities
> Population: 58,775
Methodology: To determine the city where the motor vehicle theft rate is rising fastest, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the change in motor vehicle thefts per 100,000 people from the FBI’s 2019 and 2020 Uniform Crime Reports. Crime rates were calculated using population figures provided by the FBI in the 2020 and 2019 UCR.
Limited data was available in the 2020 UCR for areas in Alabama, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, though cities in these states were not excluded from analysis. Because some state and local agencies changed reporting practices between 2019 and 2020, the figures are not comparable, and the areas were excluded.
To concentrate on urban areas, we excluded places with fewer than 25,000 people based on five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.
Click here to read Cities Where the Motor Vehicle Theft Rate Is Soaring
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