Is Your City on NICB’s 2016 Hot Spots Report For Vehicle Theft?

DES PLAINES, Ill.—The Albuquerque, N.M. metropolitan statistical area (MSA) had the highest per capita auto theft rate in 2016 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.

After rising to number two on the Hot Spots list last year, Albuquerque was chosen as the site of NICB’s annual insurance fraud and vehicle theft summit in the fall. Local and state authorities gathered to discuss the growing vehicle theft problem and address efforts to combat the problem in 2017. NICB recently ran billboard messages in the city aimed at reducing the theft rate.

New to the top 10 this year, the metro areas of Anchorage, Alaska (No. 6) and Billings, Mont. (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 Billings, with 877 thefts, places 10th while Los Angeles, with 60,670 thefts places 35th.

For 2016, 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 2016 crime data was released earlier this year, vehicle theft was up 6.6 percent across the nation. That increase is reflected in today’s Hot Spots report and is expected to hold when the final UCR 2016 crime data is published in the fall.

For comparison, below is a table showing the preliminary UCR vehicle theft data, the percent change from the previous year, and the final UCR vehicle theft figure:

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 2015, the total was 707,758. That is a 57.4 percent reduction since 1991.

While the final result for 2016 is expected to be higher than 2015’s number, the vehicle theft environment across the country is vastly improved from the 1990s.

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

In a report published last October, 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.

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.

NICB in the News: Staged Crashes, Mystery Devices and Hail Damage

WINK NEWS Fraud could be behind a recent surge in auto insurance rates.

Rates are up 21.4 percent since 2015, according to Florida Office of Insurance Regulation data. Read the story here.


KCAL9 – Police Say Car Thieves Targeting Vehicles With Keyless Entry

Police say criminals can use key fobs to disarm cars with the convenient entry option. Now they’re recommending car owners use The Club, which locks onto the steering wheel. Read the story here.


Insurance Business – How bad is your state for hail?

New data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau has listed hail as a top culprit for damaging motor vehicles. Read the story here.

 

Hailstorms Left Their Mark in 2016

DES PLAINES, Ill. — Everything is big in Texas, including hailstorms. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) said today that insurance claims for hail damage in Texas last year exceeded the previous two years combined.

Hail damage fluctuates year-to-year, but 2016 was a particularly devastating year across the country. An analysis of insurance claims from the Insurance Services Office (ISO) ClaimSearch database showed that after decreasing by 21 percent from 2014 to 2015, the number of hail claims nationwide jumped 48 percent to more than 965,000 in 2016.

Texas totaled more than four times as many hail claims as the second leading state, Colorado, and had 39 percent of all the claims filed last year.

San Antonio’s devastating hailstorms in 2016 resulted in 68,778 claims with Colorado Springs reporting 33,595.

Across the nation, most hail claims, 55 percent, were for home damage with personal auto damage representing 32 percent of all hail claims.

The report is available here. Download an infographic here.


The NICB consistently warns storm victims to be on the lookout for fraudulent roofers and contractors following a disaster.

Almost all of these scams are unsolicited—they begin with a visit from a contractor who seeks to help victims rebuild. That is why NICB recommends that “if you didn’t request it, reject it.” Before hiring any contractor, call your insurance company. Your insurance company will honor its policy so there is no need to rush into an agreement with a contractor who solicits your repair work—especially when you did not request it.

NICB suggests you consider these tips before hiring a contractor:

  • Get more than one estimate.
  • Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees,
    payment schedules and other expectations should be detailed.
  • Demand references and check them out.
  • Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license and write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number.
  • Never sign a contract with blanks; unacceptable terms can be added later.
  • Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished and ensure reconstruction is up to current code.
  • Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier.
  • Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them.
  • Never let a contractor interpret the insurance policy language.
  • Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company.

    Consumer Resources

  • For a free brochure with tips to avoid post-disaster fraud, click here.
  • For useful checklists, including how to spot flood and salvage vehicle scams and post-disaster contractor repair schemes, click here.For free consumer access to the vehicle salvage records of participating NICB member insurance companies who collectively provide 88 percent of the auto insurance in force today, access NICB’s VINCheck.

Motorcycle Thefts Increase Two Percent in 2016

Honda’s were the most stolen motorcycles in 2016.

DES PLAINES, Ill. – The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) today released a report on motorcycle thefts in the United States for 2016. A total of 46,467 motorcycles were reported stolen in 2016 compared with 45,555 reported stolen in 2015—an increase of two percent.

Although 2016 delivered another slight increase in motorcycle thefts, motorcycle thefts are down considerably since 2006. They have dropped from 66,774 in 2006 to 46,467 in 2016—a decline of 30 percent.

The top 10 states with the most reported motorcycles thefts in 2016 were California (7,506), Florida (4,482), Texas (3,692), South Carolina (2,057), North Carolina (1,847), New York (1,731), Indiana (1,397), Georgia (1,296), Missouri (1,195), and Nevada (1,177).

The top 10 cities for motorcycle thefts in 2016 were New York (1,209), San Diego (849), Las Vegas (818), Los Angeles (760) San Francisco (616), Miami (610), Houston (607), San Antonio (411), Phoenix (347), and Austin, Texas, (343).

The top 10 most stolen motorcycles in 2016 by manufacturer were American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (9,052 thefts), Yamaha Motor Corporation (7,723), American Suzuki Motor Corporation (6,229), Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (5,221), Harley Davidson, Inc. (4,953), Taotao Group Co. Ltd (2,673), KTM Sportmotorcycle AG (762), Ducati Motor Holding (521), Genuine Cycle (463), and Kymco U.S.A., Inc. (453).

The most motorcycle thefts occurred in August (5,251) and the fewest in February (2,547) which continues to reflect a weather-influenced pattern that is consistent with previous years. Download the complete report here and an infographic here.

Billboards Aim to Reduce Vehicle Theft Rate in Albuquerque Area

Billboard messages are popping up along Albuquerque freeways urging people to report vehicle thefts and suspects in an effort to put a dent in the local crime rate. According to the latest “Hot Spots” report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the Albuquerque metropolitan area had the second highest vehicle theft rate per capita in the nation in 2015.

Working with the New Mexico Insurance Fraud Bureau and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, NICB provided funding for the messages which will run through April on digital billboards at major locations along I-25 and I-40.

The organizations discussed collaborative efforts to help reduce the theft rate during a fraud summit held in Albuquerque last fall. The metro area was improving from the eighth spot nationally in 2008. Using bait cars provided by NICB and its member companies, law enforcement efforts moved the area down to the number 20 spot in 2012 and 2013. However, reduced funding for auto theft prevention and other issues resulted in an upswing, and 2015 saw the area rise to number two on the Hot Spots list.

The number to call for vehicle theft activity or to report suspected thieves is 505-827-9359. The line is staffed around the clock.

“We urge citizens to call us if they see something,” said Fraud Bureau Chief Roberta Baca. “The community’s assistance is essential in helping law enforcement stem the tide on this unacceptable crime rate.”

Mississippi Legislature Tackles Cargo Theft

The Mississippi legislature is considering two bills that would create a specific offense for cargo theft. House Bill 722, introduced by Representative Steve Massengill (R-District 13), and Senate Bill 2184, introduced by Senator Dennis DeBar, Jr. (R-District 43), recognize the impact that cargo theft has across the entire socio-economic spectrum. The proposed legislation creates law specific to cargo theft from a railcar, commercial trailer, semitrailer, fifth wheel or container and includes substantial penalties upon conviction.

Cargo theft is a major national crime problem which adds to the cost of merchandise, food and transportation. Stolen food and pharmaceuticals pose a real health hazard and these commodities, along with electronics, continue to be the favorite target among cargo thieves.

Just consider the health implications for innocent consumers who, believing that they are getting safe and secure products, unknowingly buy stolen food or drugs which have been improperly stored or exposed to contaminants as they moved through the illicit commerce stream. Individuals who feed their greed through potentially deadly acts of cargo theft deserve the special attention that these two bills provide.

To help educate the public, NICB produced a public service announcement describing the impact of cargo theft and it has been airing on radio and television stations across the nation. It is available here.

NICB urges the Mississippi legislature to pass HB 722 and SB 2184 to provide law enforcement and prosecutors with the legislation necessary to address the public health threat posed by cargo theft.

Warming Up That Vehicle May Lead to a Ticket

keysincarnicbAs frigid temperatures and wintry blasts have hit a large section of the nation, drivers are increasingly “puffing” – warming up their parked vehicles before heading out on the road. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) warns that leaving an unlocked car running with the keys or fob inside can lead to two unwanted scenarios.

First, it makes your vehicle a prime target for an opportunistic car thief. In fact, one of out every eight vehicles stolen in 2015 had the keys or fob left inside. That can cost you a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on your level of theft insurance.

Second, in an effort to reduce unnecessary thefts, many states and municipalities have passed laws banning “puffing.” It’s illegal to leave the car running and unlocked, even in your driveway. Remote starters that allow you to start the engine while the car is safely locked up without the keys are usually considered a safe alternative.

“Getting a warning or a ticket is preferable to having your car stolen,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “As we’ve reported previously, 57,000 vehicles were stolen in one year with the keys left inside. That’s one every six-and-a-half minutes. And when you add up the costs of replacing those vehicles, it’s hundreds of millions of dollars. Many of those cars are not insured against theft and the owner is left holding the bag and paying for a new car.”

NICB recently produced new public service announcements related to this issue and they are now airing on media outlets around the country. Here are the links to view them: Leaving Your Keys in Your Vehicle and Warming Up Your Car.

To view a list of states where it is illegal to leave a vehicle unattended while running click here.

This “Mystery Device” Can Unlock and Start Your Vehicle

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says new technology is being used to not only unlock and open vehicles, but to also start and steal them.

NICB recently obtained one of the so-called “mystery devices” that the public was first warned about over two years ago. At the time, thieves were being seen on security cameras across the country, using unknown devices to unlock vehicles and steal valuables inside. In recent months, NICB has noted reports of thieves not only opening the vehicles but also starting them and driving away.

The device obtained by NICB was purchased via a third-party security expert from an overseas company. It was developed by engineers in an effort to provide manufacturers and other anti-theft organizations the ability to test the vulnerability of various vehicles systems. Called a “Relay Attack” unit, this particular model only works on cars and trucks that use a keyless remote and a push-button ignition.

mysterydeviceinfographic-photoversion-final-113016-webIn a series of unscientific tests at different locations over a two-week period, 35 different makes and models of cars, SUVs, minivans and a pickup truck were tested. We partnered with NICB member company CarMax, because they are the nation’s largest used car retailer and have nearly every make and model in their inventory. Tests were also done at a new car dealership, an independent used car dealer, at an auto auction and on NICB employee vehicles and ones owned by private individuals.

The vehicles were tested to see if the device could:
* open the door
* start the vehicle
* drive it away
* turn off and restart the engine without the original fob present

deviceinaction

NICB was able to open 54% of the vehicles that were tested.

The NICB was able to open 19 (54 percent) of the vehicles and start and drive away 18 (51 percent) of them. Of the 18 that were started, after driving them away and turning off the ignition, the device was used to restart 12 (34 percent) of the vehicles.

NICB says there are a number of different devices believed to be offered for sale to thieves. Some use different technology and may work on different make and models and ignition systems. More expensive models may have a greater range and better capabilities for opening and starting a vehicle.

“We’ve now seen for ourselves that these devices work,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Maybe they don’t work on all makes and models, but certainly on enough that car thieves can target and steal them with relative ease. And the scary part is that there’s no warning or explanation for the owner. Unless someone catches the crime on a security camera, there’s no way for the owner or the police to really know what happened. Many times, they think the vehicle has been towed.”

Wehrle says it’s important for law enforcement officers to be aware of this threat and be on the lookout for thieves who may be using the technology.

According to NICB’s Chief Operating Officer Jim Schweitzer, who oversees all NICB investigations, vehicle manufacturers must continue their efforts to counter the attacks on anti-theft technology.

“Vehicles are a valuable commodity and thieves will continue to wage a tug of war with the manufacturers to find a way to steal them,” said Schweitzer. “Anti-theft technology has been a major factor in reducing the number of thefts over the past 25 years. The manufacturers have made tremendous strides with their technology, but now they have to adapt and develop countermeasures as threats like this surface.”

A look at the "mystery device" obtained by NICB.

A look at the “mystery device” obtained by NICB.

While there may not be an effective way of preventing this kind of theft at this time, NICB advises drivers to always lock their vehicles and take the remote fob or keys with them. Drivers should also be on the lookout for suspicious persons or activity and alert law enforcement rather than confronting a possible thief.

It’s also a good idea to never invite a break-in by leaving valuables in plain sight. And once thieves get inside, they can easily steal a garage door opener and valuable papers such as the vehicle registration that could lead them to your home. So take the garage door opener with you and take a picture of your registration on your cell phone rather than keeping it in the glove compartment.