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Car Theft Hot Spots


Make and model aren't the only predictors of car theft, so is location. For instance, drivers in the nation's capital are 16 times more likely to have their car stolen than in Vermont.

Some cars are magnets for theft. The flashier they are, the bigger a target. But it’s not just what you drive, but where you drive it, apparently.

While the 1994 Honda Accord is the most frequently stolen car in the United States, Forbes reported that 1 out of every 10 Corvettes sold in the last 30 years is said to have been stolen. And if it’s registered in the nation’s capital, then the car is even more likely to be pinched.

According to data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the West Coast is a high theft area when it comes to cars. The top 10 hot spots for stolen vehicles were either in California or in Washington. However, the good news is that in 2012 (the latest year data is available), car theft rates fell. The decrease in thefts is likely because 89% of 2012’s car models came standard with ignition immobilizers, which prevent hotwiring.

Bloomberg recently ranked all 50 states and the District Columbia to find where your car is most likely to be liberated. The below figures are ranked per 100,000 registered vehicles in 2012, with data compiled from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports and the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.

10. Michigan

Thefts per 100,000: 322.1

Total thefts: 25,115

Change from 2011: 0.8%

Circus Park in Detroit. Photo by Mike Russell.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Detroit has one of the highest car theft rates. The city has really been plagued with troubles, and cars aren’t the only things being stolen, according to reports out of the city. The state’s unemployment rate is still at 7.8%, while Detroit, alone, is still at 9%. Plus, the city is burdened with a high number of foreclosures.

9. Oklahoma

Thefts per 100,000: 336.2

Total thefts: 11,564

Change from 2011: 4.3%

Bricktown, Oklahoma City

Although Oklahoma is one of the least educated states (ranked 43), it has low unemployment, low cost of living, but car theft is on the rise by a fairly substantial amount. Back in 2011 10th Street and Hudson Avenue were named one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country based on home, auto and personal-property thefts.

8. South Carolina

Thefts per 100,000: 338.8

Total thefts: 13,201

Change from 2011: -3.2%


For 3 years, Charleston, SC, has been named the friendliest city to travel to, plus the state is one of the most tax-friendly. And yet, Bloomberg says that South Carolina is one of the most miserable states, one of the least educated and it has one of the smallest wage increases.

7. Arizona

Thefts per 100,000: 371.1

Total thefts: 19,158

Change from 2011: -3.2%

Downtown Phoenix

Arizona may be a good state to retire thanks to its warm weather, and Chandler and Scottsdale may be two of the safest cities in America, but the state is battling economic troubles with GDP at -4.35% from 2008 to 2012 and one of the worst crime rates, according to MoneyRates.com. Yuma is still in a recession with employment down 1.9% in 2013 and Gross Mean Product down 3.2%, according to a report by the Conference of Mayors.

Even worse than the state having a high car theft rate is the fact that it’s already the sixth most expensive state to own a car, with repairs, taxes/fees, gas and insurance costing $3,886 a year.

6. Georgia

Thefts per 100,000: 373.2

Total thefts: 28,536

Change from 2011: -3.8%

Downtown Macon

Georgia’s residents are the second-most financially unstable. Although the average salary is $47,500, the combined credit card and student loan debt for residents tops a $32,000. And, yet, tourists love the “warm” local vibe in Savannah, naming it one of the friendliest cities in the nation. Perhaps those tourists hadn’t driven into town.

5. Maryland

Thefts per 100,000: 377.3

Total thefts: 15,025

Change from 2011: -6.5%

Bethesda. Photo by G. Edward Johnson.

Maryland is one of the most educated states in the country, but it’s also the fourth worst for minimum-wage workers and one of the worst for the unemployed. Car thieves will have nice pickings, though. Maryland is home to 5 of the richest 15 counties in the nation, all of which are in close proximity to the District of Columbia.

4. Washington

Thefts per 100,000: 451.3

Total thefts: 26,402

Change from 2011: 6.4%

Seattle. Photo Cacophony/Commons

In 2011 the auto theft unit of the Washington State Patrol shut down due to a lack of funding, shortly after Spokane was ranked 4 in the nation for auto theft (though, last year it was down to 9), Yakima jumped into the top 10 as well. Meanwhile the Greater Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue area was just outside of the top 10.

Apparently, Seattle is a favorite of thieves because the city is close to the freeway, to the ports and to the international border with Canada.

3. Nevada

Thefts per 100,000: 470.3

Total thefts: 10,018

Change from 2011: 4.6%

The Las Vegas Strip. Photo: © Dietmar Rabich, rabich.de, License: Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0

Living in Nevada isn’t easy: the state has the highest unemployment, the most divorced residents, one of the worst foreclosure rates, the lowest GDP growth, and is the eighth most miserable state. But it also has the second biggest individual tax refunds, no corporate or individual income taxes, and is one of the best states for minimum-wage workers (who can find a job).

2. California

Thefts per 100,000: 608.6

Total thefts: 168,608

Change from 2011: 14.8%


California has the largest number of registered vehicles by a good 7 million and it has, by far, the largest number of thefts—a good 100,000 more than runner up Texas. Unfortunately, the increase in car theft was the third worst in the nation (while the national average fell). California had 8 of the top 10 hot spots for vehicle thefts.

All those cars being stolen are probably pretty nice, too, since California has the most million-dollar tax filers and one of the largest wage increases. (But the state also has the fourth highest unemployment.)

1. District of Columbia

Thefts per 100,000: 1,135.7

Total thefts: 3,661

Change from 2011: -17.9%

Row houses in Dupont Circle in downtown DC

The nation’s capital actually has one of the lowest numbers of total thefts, but it also has the smallest number of registered vehicles (almost half as much as second-smallest Vermont), which skews the numbers slightly.

DC is an odd amalgamation of people. According to a number of Bloomberg reports, the city has the most drunks, but is the most educated; it’s the worst for minimum-wage workers, but it has the largest wage increases, and it’s the third worst in the country for the unemployed, but has the fourth highest growth in GDP and population.

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