Southwest Region Holds Seventh Auto Theft Investigation Course of 2018

NICB’s Southwest Region completed the last (in a series of seven) auto theft investigation course at the South Padre Island Convention Center in Texas this week. This last three day course ran from November 27th to 29th, and was sponsored by the NICB, the South Padre Island Police Department, and the Brownsville Police Department.

The class, attended by nearly 100 law enforcement and SIU individuals, was instructed by NICB and law enforcement personnel with vehicle theft expertise. NICB instructors included Southwest Region agents SSA John Mitchell and SA Israel Pacheco. Other speakers came from the Texas DMV, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the State Fire Marshall, Texas Department of Insurance, Travelers Insurance, DPS, and the McAllen and Brownsville police departments.

This past year, the basic auto theft investigation course has been delivered in Arkansas, New Mexico, Louisiana, and San Antonio, El Paso and Grand Prairie, Texas.

In total, over 400 law enforcement and SIU personnel have attended this series of courses during 2018.

Don’t let Black Friday deals turn to steals

After Thanksgiving meals and celebrations have come to an end, many American’s will head out to shop, as retailers offer deals for Black Friday. As shoppers hop from store to store, loading cars and trucks with merchandise, vehicles can become prime targets.

While Thanksgiving ranks as the second lowest holiday for vehicle theft (according to data from 2017), the story changes when we look to the next day, Black Friday.  Comparing the numbers, in 2017, there were 1,777 auto thefts reported on Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, that number jumped to 2,161. Here is a look at Black Friday data from the last four years:

2014  –  1,838 thefts

2015  –  2,244 thefts

2016  –  2,262 thefts

2017  –  2,161 thefts

NICB reminds drivers this holiday season to make sure your vehicle is locked when unattended. Roll up the windows completely. Don’t leave spare keys or FOBS inside. Take a moment and be sure to hide your valuables from view. Even an empty backpack looks appealing to a thief from the outside.

If stopping at several locations to shop, remember to first store your packages in your trunk before leaving one destination for the next. Thieves are known to watch shoppers who place items in their trunks and then head for the stores—that invites trouble.

Here’s how the 11 official holidays stacked up in 2017. See the complete holiday theft report.

  1. New Year’s Day (2,469)
  2. President’s Day (2,312)
  3. Halloween (2,297)
  4. Memorial Day (2,290)
  5. Labor Day (2,180)
  6. Valentine’s Day (2,169)
  7. Independence Day (2,124)
  8. New Year’s Eve (1,962)
  9. Christmas Eve (2,054)
  10. Thanksgiving (1,777)
  11. Christmas Day (1,664)

“Cars for Cops” Project – Houston Police Department

The Houston Police Department was not spared from the damage and flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. A significant number of Houston PD vehicles were damaged by the storm, nearly 500 in total, with about 100 considered a total loss.

In an effort to assist the police department with their vehicle loss, the “Cars for Cops” program was created. Some of the damaged vehicles that need to be replaced include undercover and bait cars. The NICB, working with member company MetLife, recently arranged donations to the department.

Roofing fraud requires vigilance

Roofs are among the most expensive components of a house. It is no wonder then that while most roofing contractors are honest and reputable, fraudsters will commonly use roof repair and replacement as a means to swindle innocent homeowners. Worse, in the aftermath of major storms or catastrophe, unscrupulous contractors use the opportunity to prey upon already vulnerable consumers. Common roofing cons include:

False promises: Scammers will say anything to get homeowners to sign on the dotted line, including guaranteeing an insurance claim prior to approval from the insurance company.

Insisting payment upfront: Some dishonest contractors will insist upon full payment in advance and never complete, or even start, the job.

Lie about, exaggerate or create damage: In hopes of a larger payday, shady contractors will state damage exists where none does, exaggerate the scope of damage and necessary repair, or even purposely damage roofs to make it appear that it sustained damage from a weather event.

Sudden costs: Another scheme by unethical roofers is claiming, once the job has started, unforeseen damage or increases in material cost and demanding additional money. As a caveat, roof decking cannot be seen prior to tearing off the shingles and may legitimately need replacement, but the replacement costs should be detailed in the contract.

Alan Haskins, Vice President, Government Affairs for the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says that while the best defense to roofing scams is an educated homeowner, state governments play an important consumer protection role. Some tools states can employ are:

Licensing: Not all states license roofing contractors. Licensing is good way to help ensure roofing contractors meet minimal professional education standards and hold roofers accountable.

Right to cancel: Some states allow consumers the right to cancel a roofing contract within 72 hours after receiving notice from their insurer that the insurance claim was denied.

Consumer disclosure requirements: States can help protect consumers by requiring contracts contain specific disclosures such as an itemized estimate of repair costs and a statement that claimed losses are not guaranteed to be covered by an insurance policy. Illinois requires contractors to provide their customer a brochure highlighting consumer rights.

Rebate prohibitions: Some roofers will attempt to lure homeowners into agreeing to unnecessary or inflated claims by offering to rebate their deductible.

Consumer education: States, in the aftermath of a catastrophe, or on an ongoing basis, can be instrumental in educating residents on how to avoid contractor fraud.

State elected officials or staff interested in strengthening their consumer protections related to roof repair and replacement should contact NICB’s government affairs department at GovernmentAffairs@nicb.org or 800-447-6282.

For more information on how to better protect yourself as a consumer when hiring a contractor, NICB offers this time-tested advice.

NICB West Region Task Forces – Vehicle Recovery Work

On average, over 2,100 vehicles are stolen every day in the United States. But not all of them remain stolen, nearly 60% of vehicles are recovered. Not by the owners, but often by Auto Theft Task Forces. These groups are made up of local, county, and state law enforcement, along with agents from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. They work together to recover stolen vehicles, make auto theft related arrests, serve search warrants, launch investigations, conduct vehicle inspections, and assist other law enforcement agencies.

During the month of July, nine separate Vehicle Task Forces across the western United States recovered a total of 350 stolen vehicles. The value of those recovered rides totals $2,749,558.

In August, those same Vehicle Task Forces recovered 407 stolen vehicles, valued at $3,228,992.

In addition to getting the stolen vehicles back to their rightful owners, many of the recoveries lead to tips or arrests regarding other crimes. One patrol unit stopped a stolen rental car, then learned the individuals inside the car possessed stolen or counterfeit drivers licenses, matching credit cards, and 13 pounds of marijuana. Another team, working a stolen vehicles parts investigation, in turn recovered several cloned vehicles, found various firearms, and nearly 300 pounds of methamphetamine.

NICB facilitates cement mixer donation to San Diego Job Corps

On Friday, October 5th, 2018, Special Agent Brent Bowser, of the NICB Western Region, facilitated the donation of a Western Cement Mixer from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department Evidence Unit to the San Diego Job Corps’ Bricklaying Trade School.

SA Bowser has been assisting San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Evidence Unit on identifying and returning, in part, equipment and trailers that field deputies have impounded and stored at the Sheriff’s Evidence lot.

During the process, a Western Cement Mixer had been seized by the Sheriff’s Department a few years ago and the owner was not able to be located. SA Bowser contacted the manufacturer, Western, who provided the local distributor where it was originally sent. SA Bowser then conducted a records check and reached out to the local distributor for records, but none were available regarding ownership.

SA Bowser then reached out to the local Job Corps’ Bricklaying instructor, Mr. Peter Camarda, about the cement mixer, and assisted Mr. Camarda on obtaining it from the Sheriff’s Department.

San Diego Sheriff’s Department Lead Evidence Technician, Flavio Alfaro, loaded the mixer on a Sheriff’s truck and delivered it to Job Corps. Without the work of SA Bowser, and the collaboration with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, the mixer would have been sent to a scrap metal facility for disposal. Mr. Camarda gave thanks for the donation of this cement mixer, and said they can now take on other projects within the San Diego community, such as building dug-outs for little league fields.

NICB’s Hot Wheels: America’s 10 Most Stolen Vehicles

DES PLAINES, Ill. – The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) today released its annual Hot Wheels report, which identifies the 10 most stolen vehicles in the United States. The report examines vehicle theft data submitted by law enforcement to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and determines the vehicle make, model and model year most reported stolen in 2017.

While Honda Accords and Civics produced prior to the introduction of anti-theft technology continue to dominate this report, a deeper look at the data demonstrates just how effective anti-theft technology continues to be. A total of (6,707) 1998 Honda Civics were stolen in 2017 compared with just (388) 2017 Civics. Put another way, (17) 1998 Civics were stolen last year for every one 2017 model.

Included with today’s release is a list of the top 25, 2017 vehicle makes and models that were reported stolen in calendar year 2017.

Even with the slight increases in the last few years, the national vehicle theft problem today is at levels not seen since 1967. Enhancements in vehicle security and manufacturing are having a positive impact, but complacency can undermine their success. Thousands of vehicles continue to be stolen each year because owners leave their keys or fobs in the vehicles, and that invites theft.

For 2017, the most stolen vehicles* in the nation were:

See the 2017 national report, the state report, an infographic and video.

The following are the top 10, 2017 model year vehicles stolen during calendar year 2017:

Download the complete list of 2017’s top 25 most stolen.

Vehicle theft is a severe economic hardship for its victims—especially if a vehicle is uninsured. That is why NICB continues to advise all drivers to review our four “Layers of Protection”:
Common Sense: Lock your car and take your keys. It’s simple enough, but many thefts occur because owners make it easy for thieves to steal their cars.
Warning Device: Having and using a visible or audible warning device is another item that can ensure that your car remains where you left it.
Immobilizing Device: Generally speaking, if your vehicle can’t be started, it can’t be stolen. “Kill” switches, fuel cut-offs and smart keys are among the devices that are extremely effective.
Tracking Device: A tracking device emits a signal to the police or to 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.

Considering a used vehicle purchase? Check out VINCheck®, a free vehicle history service for consumers. Since 2005, NICB has offered this limited service made possible by its participating member companies. Check it out at: www.nicb.org/vincheck.

*This report reflects stolen vehicle data contained in NCIC and present in the “NCIC mirror image” when accessed by NICB on March 5, 2018. NCIC records may contain errors based on inaccurate entries submitted by reporting agencies. Full size pickups include half ton and larger capacity models for all makes.

 

 

NICB Disappointed by Gov. Brown’s Veto

Legislation Would Have Allowed Car Rental Companies to More Quickly Report Vehicle Theft

DES PLAINES, Ill., Sept. 17, 2018 — The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is expressing disappointment in Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s August 27 veto of Assembly Bill 2169. Assembly Bill 2169 reduces the time from five days to 48 hours, following the expiration of the rental period, before a vehicle rental company may report a vehicle stolen.

In his veto message, Governor Brown cites increased use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and unnamed “other solutions” as better approaches.

While GPS technology certainly is one tool in curbing automobile theft, it is an exponentially useless tool if California car rental companies cannot report the vehicle stolen. Worse, criminals are becoming more skilled in locating and disabling GPS technology.

“Every passing day a car rental company cannot report their vehicle stolen, the likelihood of that vehicle being recovered decreases,” says Joseph H. Wehrle, Jr., NICB President and Chief Executive Officer. “Car rental companies can watch, in real time, their stolen vehicle taken over the U.S.-Mexico border with little recourse.”

According to NICB’s annual Hot Spots vehicle theft report, five of the top 10 U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), adjusted for population, for auto theft are located in California: Redding (4), Bakersfield (6), Modesto (7), Stockton-Lodi (8), and Yuba City (9).

Assembly Bill 2169 passed both California legislative chambers with only one dissenting vote. The NICB applauds sponsor Assemblyman Randy Voepel and the California legislature for taking a step in the right direction toward reducing California auto theft, and looks forward to the legislation being reintroduced.

To access the NICB’s Hot Spots Vehicle Theft Report, please visit: nicb.org/news

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on our website. Or, download the NICB Fraud Tips app on your iPhone or Android device.

NICB’s 2017 Hot Spots Vehicle Theft Report

DES PLAINES, Ill., July 12 — The Albuquerque, N.M. metropolitan statistical area (MSA) repeats as having the highest per capita auto theft rate in 2017, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) latest Hot Spots report.

Hot Spots examines vehicle theft data obtained from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) for each of the nation’s MSAs. MSAs are designated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and often include areas much larger than the cities for which they are named. For example, this year’s number one spot, the Albuquerque, N.M. MSA, includes all thefts within the entire county of Bernalillo, not just the city of Albuquerque.

New to the top 10 this year, the metro areas of St. Joseph (No. 5) and Springfield, Mo. (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. Which is how St. Joseph, with 952 thefts, places 5th while Los Angeles, with 60,444 thefts places 33rd.

For 2017, the 10 MSAs with the highest vehicle theft rates were: (thefts in parentheses)

 

 

 

 

 

Each year the FBI releases preliminary Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data for the previous year’s January–June time frame. When the preliminary 2017 crime data was released earlier this year, vehicle theft was up 4.1 percent across the nation. That increase is reflected in today’s Hot Spots report and is expected to hold when the final UCR 2017 crime data is published in the fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, vehicle theft is down, dramatically, across the nation. The historic peak year for vehicle theft was 1991, with 1,661,738 reported thefts. 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.

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 is 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.

Vehicle manufacturers, law enforcement and legislatures have been responsive to the crime of vehicle theft over the years, and the results are evident. Vehicle owners must guard against complacency and remember to heed simple tips to safeguard their vehicles.

The full Hot Spots report is available at www.nicb.org. See the Hot Spots video here and a graphic here.

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

Common Sense — The common sense approach to protection is the easiest and most cost-effective way to thwart would-be thieves. You should always:
∙Remove your keys from the ignition
∙Lock your doors/close your windows
∙Park in a well-lit area

Warning Device — The second layer of protection is a visible or audible device which 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

Immobilizing Device — The third layer of protection is a device which 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

Tracking Device — The final layer of protection is a tracking device which 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.

Action on Model Towing Bill

The National Council of State Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) approved the Consumer Protection Model Towing Act at their Summer Meeting in Salt Lake City.  The Act will serve as a guide to aide state lawmakers better regulate the towing industry, help protect accident victims from overzealous solicitation and addresses other key areas.   NICB served as a valued resource to NCOIL on the model’s formation. Special thanks to Indiana State Representative Matt Lehman on sponsoring the model as well as  contributions from NICB member companies, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies and others.