California cities take top spots for vehicle thefts in the U.S.

Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

Fresno County draws travelers to its amazing Blossom Trail each spring when fruit trees erupt with color, but the area claims a dubious distinction too: vehicle theft capital of the United States.

California cities claimed seven of the top 10 spots where cars, trucks and vans were most often stolen nationwide in 2011, according to a report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Fresno, Modesto and the Bakersfield-Delano area claimed the three top spots for vehicle thefts last year for the second year in a row, according to the organization’s Hot Spots 2011 report released last month. And the statistics include rental cars too, though they aren’t recorded under a separate category.


The theft figures represent broad metropolitan areas (for example, Fresno includes all of Fresno County), and the number of thefts are calculated on a per capita basis to compensate for big cities vs. small cities.

The rest of the top vehicle theft areas include:

4. Spokane, Wash.
5. Yakima, Wash.
6. San Francisco, Oakland and Fremont, Calif.
7. Stockton, Calif.
8. Anderson, S.C.
9. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.
10. Visalia-Porterville, Calif.

The first Southern California areas to hit the theft charts are Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario area at No. 14, San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos at No. 16 and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana at No. 23.

The good news is that vehicle thefts in the U.S. have dropped a little — 3.3% — over last year, according to preliminary FBI crime statistics for 2011. Final FBI figures will be published in the fall.