AUTOS

California is home to seven of top U.S. metro areas for car theft

Led by the San Francisco Bay Area, California metropolitan areas top the nation in per capita auto theft, according to an insurance industry report.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau said Wednesday that there were 29,093 car thefts in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metropolitan area last year. That amounted to 633 vehicles stolen per 100,000 residents, making the area supplant Bakersfield as the worst region in the nation.

Bakersfield was second in 2014 with 5,211 thefts, or 596 per 100,000 residents. The Stockton-Lodi region gave California the top three spots on the list. It had 4,245 thefts last year or 593 per 100,000 residents.

Although vehicle thefts are well into a long-term decline, cars still get stolen daily. Older vehicles are stolen primarily for their parts, while newer, high-end vehicles often are shipped overseas and sold to unknowing buyers, the insurance group said.

Seven of the top regions for car theft are located in California. Odessa, Texas, with 886 vehicles stolen, or a rate of 576 thefts per 100,000 residents, is fourth in the rankings.

The Los Angeles-Anaheim metro area ranked 39. It had 47,517 cars stolen last year, but that was 358 per 100,000 residents.

“California has always had more vehicles that any other state,” said Frank Scafidi, director of public affairs for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, “and that creates the environment for higher thefts.”

Nonetheless, vehicle theft in California has fallen to about half of what it was in the 1990s, Scafidi said. There were 159,271 thefts in California last year, down from 171,036 in the prior year and 257,543 in 2005.

Smart, or transponder keys, are responsible for much of the decline because they make vehicles harder to steal.

The rest of the top 10 regions for vehicle theft are Modesto; Spokane, Wash.; Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.; Seattle-Tacoma; Fresno and Silicon Valley.

The easiest way for drivers to prevent their cars from being stolen is to remember to lock their doors and take their keys when they leave the vehicle, the insurance group advised.

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