Thefts of Vehicles with Keys Left Inside Continue to Rise

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Every day from January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2018, an average of 209 vehicles were stolen across the U.S. because drivers left their keys or fobs in their vehicles, making them attractive targets for thieves. The latest report from the NICB shows that during this three-year period, a total of 229,339 vehicles were stolen in this manner—a 56 percent increase since 2015. When including the numbers from 2013, that increase balloons to 88 percent.

NICB analysts reviewed data contained in the National Crime Information Center’s stolen vehicle file to produce this report. Records were queried using thefts with keys and similar variants as search criteria. The number of thefts with keys or fobs left inside may be substantially higher since many drivers don’t admit to making the mistake, and it’s not reported in the police report or insurance claim.

Experience the interactive Multichannel News Release here: https://www.multivu.com/players/English/8429552-nicb-vehicle-thefts-with-keys-inside-report/

While national vehicle thefts have enjoyed a steep decline since 2003, in recent years, there have been some upticks in thefts; most notably in 2016 when 765,484 vehicles were reported stolen—an increase of 57,726 from 2015. According to today’s report, in that same year, 69,351 vehicles were stolen as a result of keys or fobs remaining in the vehicle. Had those complacency thefts not occurred, 2016 would have posted a decrease rather than an increase in annual vehicle thefts.

The top five states with the most thefts with keys during this period were: California (31,185), Florida (17,300), Texas (15,511), Ohio (12,596) and Nevada (11,391).

The top five Core-Based Statistical Areas (CBSA) with the most thefts with keys were: Las VegasHenderson-Paradise, NV (11,073); MiamiFort LauderdaleWest Palm Beach, FL (7,549); AtlantaSandy SpringsRoswell, GA (7,501); ChicagoNapervilleElgin, IL (7,086); and Dallas-Fort WorthArlington, TX (6,603).

Warming and cooling vehicles seems to have played a part in these thefts since the most occurred in winter and fall. December was first with 22,155. It was followed by January (21,384), November (20,080), October (19,918) and July (19,811).

The top five specific dates with the most reported thefts were in January and December, with January having four of the five. January 1, 2018, was the top spot with 321 thefts. January 3, 2018, was next with 309 thefts, followed by January 5, 2018 (307), December 27, 2017 (299) and January 2, 2018 (296).

Reviewing day-of-week theft occurrence data, Monday was the preferred theft day with 34,948 thefts. Friday was next with 33,582, followed by Saturday (33,214), Sunday (32,100) and Tuesday (32,085).

“We can’t stress enough the importance of locking your vehicle and taking the key or fob with you when you leave it,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Anti-theft technology works, but only if you use it.”

NICB advises drivers to:

  • Lock the vehicle, set the alarm and take all keys or FOBS.
  • Do not leave the garage door opener in the vehicle.
  • Take a picture of your registration on your cell phone and do not leave the registration or other papers with personal information in the vehicle.
  • Never leave a car unlocked and running to warm it up or while stopping for a quick cup of coffee. It only takes a moment for the opportunistic thief to jump inside and drive off.

The full report can be viewed and downloaded here.  The full dataset is here. Download an infographic here and a video is available as well.

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 West Region Task Forces – Vehicle Recovery Numbers January 2019

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NICB’s West Region Auto Theft Task Forces have impressive numbers to report for the month of January. These task forces, from California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Arizona, are made up of local, county, and state law enforcement, along with agents from the NICB.

During the month of January, 11 separate Vehicle Task Forces in these four states recovered a total of 467 stolen vehicles (and assisted with 49 stolen vehicle recoveries), for a total recovery value of $4,830,934.

In addition to recovering stolen vehicles and helping return them to their rightful owners, these teams made auto theft related arrests, initiated vehicle theft investigations, conducted vehicle inspections, parole and probation searches, business inspections, conducted insurance fraud related criminal investigations, investigated a chop shop, and assisted other law enforcement agencies.

Preliminary Semiannual Crime Statistics 2018 Shows Decrease in Vehicle Theft

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The Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report was released at the end of February, revealing a decrease in motor vehicle thefts. This FBI report covers the first 6 months of 2018, in comparison with the first 6 months of 2017. From January to June of 2018, vehicle thefts decreased by 3.3 percent.

By region, the largest decrease in motor vehicle theft was found in the western United States. When considering population size, the largest decrease was found in cities with population size ranging from 25,000 to 249,999.

This is the first time in four years that motor vehicle theft had decreased within the first 6 months of the year.

In addition, overall property crimes for the first half of 2018 were down 7.2 percent, in comparison with the same time frame during 2017.

The full report can be found here.

NICB West Region Task Force Activity for 2018

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*Article updated 1/29/19 with new numbers from additional task force reporting.

The NICB West Region Auto Theft Task Force numbers for 2018 show an impressive number of stolen vehicle recoveries. The West Region includes the states of California, Hawaii, Arizona, and Nevada, and the task forces include NICB employees, along with local, county, and state law enforcement.

Totals from 11 separate task forces reveal in 2018, 5,354 stolen vehicles were recovered. The value of those recovered vehicles adds up to $49,739,260.00.

Vehicle recoveries are just one part of the task forces workload. They also assist with investigations, arrests, searches, inspections, uncovering chop shops, training, and much more.

 

NICB West Region Special Agent Travels Abroad to Train in INTERPOL Effort

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NICB’s experience fighting insurance fraud and vehicle crime often leads to assisting groups internationally.  On December 3-4, 2018, Special Agent Neil Carmody did just that. He traveled to Accra, Ghana, to train law enforcement officials from the West African countries of Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia, as part of INTERPOL’s “Project Adwenpa – Specialized Border Management Training.”

The goal of the project was to strengthen port and land border law enforcement management efforts and enhance communication and cooperation between nations in the region. Topics included North American Vehicle Identification, U.S. Theft Trends, VIN Switching, Export Fraud and Open Source Investigative Resources.

NICB Special Agent Neil Carmody (left) pictured with Ms. Theresa Finda Lebbe of Liberia Customs and Sgt. Nathan Rickets, London Metro Police

“The instruction focused on physical indicators to properly identify vehicles as well as indicators of counterfeit VIN numbers, fraudulent labels, and VIN plates, to detect potential theft,” Carmody said. Carmody co-instructed the class on vehicle theft with Sgt. Nathan Rickets of the London Metro Police Department.

Students, instructors and INTERPOL officials upon completion of field practical exercises at a Ghana Customs vehicle impound yard

Following classroom training, students participated in a practical field exercise at a Ghana Customs impound yard, identifying 10 stolen vehicles: six Range Rovers, two BMWs, one Lexus and one Jeep Wrangler, nine of which were VIN switches. The stolen vehicles originated in Italy, Germany, Belgium, Ukraine and Canada.

2018 Foreign Operations Repatriation Statistics

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During 2018, Foreign Operations located 2,536 vehicles and recovered 2,485 vehicles from foreign countries. The total number of vehicles repatriated in 2018 is a 4.5-percent increase from the number of vehicles recovered in 2017, which totaled 2,378 vehicles.

Below is a brief overview of the top recovery cities, top makes/models located, and top theft cities based on the 2,536 vehicles located during 2018.

Top 5 Recovery Cities
1. Tijuana, Baja California (880)
2. Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua (140)
3. Nogales, Sonora (136)
4. Hermosillo, Sonora (101)
5. Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas (100)

Top 5 Makes Located
1. Ford (412)
2. Chevrolet (405)
3. Nissan (308)
4. Toyota (222)
5. Honda (177)

Top 5 Models Located
1. Ford F150 (145)
2. Chevrolet Silverado (108)
3. Toyota Camry (90)
4. Nissan Altima (74)
5. Honda Accord (72)

Top 5 Theft Cities by ORI
1. San Diego Police Department (217)
2. El Paso Police Department (130)
3. Phoenix Police Department (96)
4. California Highway Patrol- San Diego (92)
5. Tucson Police Department (75)

NICB West Region Task Forces – Vehicle Recovery Numbers

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NICB’s West Region Auto Theft Task Forces were hard at work during the month of November. These task forces, from California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Arizona, are made up of local, county, and state law enforcement, along with agents from the NICB.

During the month of November, 11 separate Vehicle Task Forces recovered a total of 411 stolen vehicles, valued at $4,184,910.

Of note – Delta RATT investigators located two ransacked stolen vehicles dumped near the residence of a male probationer with two outstanding felony warrants. When investigators appeared to search the residence, the man hid in the attic. A police K-9 forced the man to surrender after the man fell through the living room ceiling. The man now faces resisting arrest charges, and faces seven years in prison on the outstanding warrants.

In addition to recovering stolen vehicles and helping return them to their rightful owners, these teams make auto theft related arrests, serve search warrants, launch investigations, conduct vehicle inspections, investigate chop shops, and assist other law enforcement agencies.

 

New Public Service Announcements from the NICB

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The NICB recently released a new package of Public Service Announcements. These PSAs focus on two major issues, preventing auto theft, and recognizing medical fraud after an auto accident.

The preventing auto theft PSA aims to inform drivers of simple steps they can take to keep their vehicle safe.

The other, regarding medical fraud, focuses on anyone who has been involved in an auto accident. Accident victims are often targeted by fraudsters, who want to make quick cash by defrauding insurance companies. The PSA gives practical tips on best practices regarding what to do, and not to do, after an auto accident.

Preventing Auto Theft: https://youtu.be/vPWgcITM_ug

Auto Accident Related Medical Fraud: https://youtu.be/ApEpaOshrCc 

These PSAs are available for use by media outlets and websites. Each topic has a 30 and 60-second version, and is available in English and Spanish. For anyone who needs access to raw files or audio files, please complete our media request form.

Southwest Region Holds Seventh Auto Theft Investigation Course of 2018

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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

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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)