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Albuquerque Has Highest Auto-Theft Rate in Nation

New to the top 10 this year are the metropolitan areas of St. Joseph, Missouri (No. 5), and Springfield, Missouri (No. 10).



The Albuquerque, New Mexico, metropolitan statistical area (MSA) holds the dubious distinction of having the highest per-capita auto-theft rate in the nation – for the second year in a row.

The 2017 data is from the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) latest “Hot Spots” report.

“Hot Spots” examines vehicle-theft data obtained from the National Crime Information Center for each of the nation’s MSAs. MSAs are designated by the Office of Management and Budget and often include areas much larger than the cities for which they are named. For example, the Albuquerque MSA includes all thefts within the entire county of Bernalillo, not just the city of Albuquerque.


New to the top 10 this year are the metropolitan areas of St. Joseph, Missouri (No. 5), and Springfield, Missouri (No. 10). 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. That’s how St. Joseph – with 952 thefts – places fifth while Los Angeles – with 60,444 thefts –places 33rd.

For 2017, the 10 MSAs with the highest vehicle-theft rates were:

2017 Ranking Thefts 2016 Ranking Thefts
1.     Albuquerque, New Mexico (9,989) 1 (10,011)
2.     Anchorage, Alaska (3,274) 6 (2,273)
3.     Pueblo, Colorado (1,353) 2 (1,325)
4.     Redding, California (1,352) 20 (1,011)
5.     St. Joseph, Missouri (952) 28 (651)
6.     Bakersfield, California (6,560) 3 (7,176)
7.     Modesto, California (3,870) 4 (3,820)
8.     Stockton-Lodi, California (4,575) 12 (4,075)
9.     Yuba City, California (1,050) 30 (860)
10.  Springfield, Missouri (2,686) 33 (2,142)

Vehicle Thefts Peaked in 1991

Overall, vehicle theft is down dramatically across the nation. The historic peak year for vehicle theft was 1991, with 1,66 million reported thefts, according to NICB. In 2016, the total was 765,484. That is a 54-percent reduction since 1991.


While the final result for 2017 is expected to be higher than 2016’s number (although the rate of increase is decreasing), the vehicle-theft environment across the country has improved significantly since the 1990s.

But it could be much better if vehicle owners just followed simple security advice, NICB says.

In a report published in October 2016, 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’s 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, NICB explains.


Four Layers of Protection

NICB recommends that drivers follow its four “layers of protection” to guard against vehicle theft:

1. Common sense – The common-sense approach to protection is the easiest and most cost-effective way to thwart would-be thieves. You always should:

  • Remove your keys from the ignition
  • Lock your doors and close your windows
  • Park in a well-lit area

2. Warning device – The second layer of protection is a visible or audible device that alerts thieves that your vehicle is protected. Popular devices include:

  • Audible alarms
  • Steering-column collars
  • Steering-wheel/brake-pedal lock
  • Brake locks
  • Wheel locks
  • Theft-deterrent decals
  • Identification markers in or on vehicle
  • VIN etching
  • Micro-dot marking

3. Immobilizing device – The third layer of protection is a device that prevents thieves from bypassing your ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some electronic devices have computer chips in ignition keys. Other devices inhibit the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until a hidden switch or button is activated. Some examples are:

  • Smart keys
  • Fuse cut-offs
  • Kill switches
  • Starter, ignition and fuel pump disablers
  • Wireless ignition authentication

4. Tracking device – The final layer of protection is a tracking device that emits a signal to police or a monitoring station when the vehicle is stolen. Tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles. Some systems employ telematics, which combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of a vehicle. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked via computer.

The full “Hot Spots” report is available at

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