The Winter Edition of our quarterly NICB News is now available. This edition looks at the Mystery Device thieves are using, thefts of vehicles with the keys left inside of them, and auto and crime issues in New Mexico.
In this edition of Fraud Files we have the story of a 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray that was stolen in 1976 and recovered some 40 years later. With the help of a California Highway Patrol officer and a little bit of research from the NICB the original owner was reunited with her prized vehicle after four decades.
To view more editions of Fraud Files click here.
When you’re making the rounds at the stores this holiday season, make sure your car isn’t on someone’s gift list. Unattended vehicles, especially those loaded with valuables, make attractive targets for thieves.
New data released today by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) shows a total of 9,600 vehicles were reported stolen in 2015 on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Holiday vehicle thieves had their busiest day in 2015 on Halloween, stealing 2,238 vehicles according to NICB’s 2015 Annual Holiday Vehicle Theft Report. Theft data is culled from the National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) stolen vehicle file, which showed a total of 759,237 vehicle thefts for the year.
After Halloween, New Year’s Eve was the next most active holiday with 2,227 thefts. Labor Day came in third with 2,171 thefts followed by Christmas Eve with 2,071 thefts. Memorial Day rounds out the top five holidays for 2015 with 2,040 thefts.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the holidays with the fewest thefts in 2015 were: Christmas Day (1,620); Thanksgiving (1,653); Valentine’s Day (1,690); President’s Day (1,787) and Independence Day (1,981).
Holidays ranked by the number of thefts in 2015 were:
- Halloween (2,238)
- New Year’s Eve (2,227)
- Labor Day (2,171)
- Christmas Eve (2,071)
- Memorial Day (2,040)
- New Year’s Day (2,029)
- Independence Day (1,981)
- President’s Day (1,787)
- Valentine’s Day (1,690)
- Thanksgiving (1,653)
- Christmas Day (1,620)
While the holiday with the most thefts was Halloween, the most thefts on a single day in all of 2015 occurred on Monday, June 15, with 2,579.
A special feature included in today’s report is a look at vehicle thefts occurring on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, which is widely viewed as the start of the holiday shopping season. In recent years, many national retailers have launched Black Friday specials on Thanksgiving evening while families may still be carving their turkeys.
The lure of added shopping hours—and the presence of unattended vehicles in store parking lots—may be contributing to higher vehicle thefts on Black Friday.
The following graph shows the number of vehicle thefts reported on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday from 2011 through 2015. There are, on average, over 30 percent more vehicle thefts on Black Friday than the day before. Moreover, the 2,244 thefts on Black Friday in 2015 were more than the 2,080 average daily thefts for the entire year.
|Year||Thanksgiving Day||Black Friday||% Increase|
NICB reminds drivers this holiday season to make sure your vehicle is locked when unattended. 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.
Last year, a vehicle was reported stolen once every 45 seconds in the United States. And one out of every eight thefts was a freebie for the thief. There was a theft every six and one-half minutes where the driver left the keys or FOB inside.
It’s a growing problem according to the latest report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). The 57,096 thefts in 2015 amounted to a 22 percent increase over the previous year. Over the past three years, this kind of theft grew by 31 percent.
Since many people do not admit to leaving their car unlocked with the keys or FOB inside, the actual numbers of thefts with the keys left in vehicles may be considerably higher than the report indicates.
“Anti-theft technology has had a tremendous impact on reducing thefts over the past 25 years, but if you don’t lock it up, it’s not going to help,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Complacency can lead to a huge financial loss and inconvenience for the vehicle owner. Leaving a vehicle unlocked or with the key or FOB inside gives a thief the opportunity to take not only the car, but also any possessions inside. It can also provide access to your personal information if the registration is left in the glove compartment.
“We have reports from our law enforcement partners that car thieves have stolen the car, driven it to the residence and burglarized the home before the owner even knew the vehicle was missing.”
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.
For the years 2013 through 2015, a total of 147,434 were reported stolen with the keys left in the vehicle. In 2013, there were 43,643 thefts; 46,695 thefts in 2014 and 57,096 in 2015. From 2013 to 2015, the increase was 31 percent.
The top five states that posted the most vehicle thefts with keys during this reporting period were California (22,580), Texas (11,003), Florida (9,952), Ohio (8,623) and Nevada (8,073). The top five core-based statistical areas (CBSA) were Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV (7,815), Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI (4,380), Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA (4,118), Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL, (3,847) and Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD (3,365).
One state—Hawaii—had a perfect record. Not a single report of a vehicle theft with keys.
Looking at day-of-week data, Saturday saw the most thefts with (22,081) followed by Monday (21,851) and Friday (21,652).
As Halloween approaches, there may be more than ghouls, gremlins and witches canvassing the landscape. How many car thieves will also be prowling the nation’s streets this Halloween disguised as trick-or-treaters as they case neighborhoods for their next target?
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has been analyzing and reporting on vehicle theft activity for over 100 years. While we’ve published hundreds of reports about vehicle theft over the years, this is the first time we have approached the topic to see what effect, if any, Halloween has on vehicle theft.
NICB examined 2011-2015 vehicle theft data contained in the National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) Stolen Vehicle File to produce daily reported theft totals and then pulled the numbers for October 31—Halloween. The result is a straightforward presentation of theft statistics linked to Halloween, the annual celebration with roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain.
The average daily theft totals for each of the past five years was determined and then compared with the thefts reported on Halloween. Halloween thefts for four of the five years were higher than the daily average. One year, 2012, had fewer thefts.
So, the question remains. Is there a link between Halloween and vehicle theft? Is the behavior of vehicle thieves affected by this annual celebration? Maybe. But during the last five years the data shows more theft activity on October 31—and that’s no trick, or treat.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that from 2008 through 2015, there were 25,394 catalytic converter thefts across the nation. In 2008, there were 3,246 thefts of catalytic converters. That number rose to 3,986 at the end of 2015—an increase of 23 percent—according to a review of insurance claims data. These numbers reflect just insured thefts, so the actual number of all catalytic converter thefts is likely to be much higher.
For example, an online search of “catalytic converter thefts” produced news stories describing this activity occurring from Michigan to North Carolina and from California to New York—just this summer alone.
California is the state where the overwhelming majority of catalytic converter thefts occurred during this time frame—8,072. It was followed by Texas (1,705), Illinois (1,605), Ohio (1,439) and Georgia (1,215).
The top five cities where insured thefts were reported were: Chicago (980), Sacramento (850), Los Angeles (550), Atlanta (407) and Indianapolis (353).
Why catalytic converter thefts?
Stolen metals have been converted into cash by scrap metal operators who may have been acting within the law, but who may also have unwittingly enabled the proliferation of these kinds of thefts by providing a cash conversion point for purloined materials. As these kinds of thefts intensified–often disabling roadway lighting and airport runway lighting—they captured the attention of lawmakers around the country who, eventually, passed tough, new recycling laws to tighten regulations over metal recyclers.
But unlike base metals and other materials, catalytic converters are unique in that they each contain a small amount of one of three precious metals: platinum, palladium, or rhodium. The presence of those metals is what drives catalytic converter thefts as they can easily bring anywhere from $20 – $240 in recycling value depending on the amount and type of precious metal they contain.
An aggressive thief can easily collect 10-15 or more converters in a single day. They often target sport utility vehicles (SUVs) because their ground clearance is sufficient for the thief to gain access to the converter without having to deploy a jack. And that saves time.
While the replacement of a catalytic converter alone may be relatively inexpensive, many times vehicles are significantly damaged in the theft process making repairs much more costly. NICB recommends that consumers–particularly owners of SUVs—consider taking some preventive measures to deter the theft of their catalytic converters. Etching the catalytic converter with the vehicle identification number (VIN) is an effective deterrent and there are after-market security devices available as well.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) 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 2015.
Included with today’s release is a list of the top 25 2015 vehicle makes and models that were reported stolen in calendar year 2015.
For 2015, the most stolen vehicles* in the nation were (total thefts in parentheses):
1. 1996 Honda Accord (52,244)
2. 1998 Honda Civic (49,430)
3. 2006 Ford Pickup (Full Size) (29,396)
4. 2004 Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size) (27,771)
5. 2014 Toyota Camry (15,466)
6. 2001 Dodge Pickup (Full Size) (11,212)
7. 2014 Toyota Corolla (10,547)
8. 2015 Nissan Altima (10,374)
9. 2002 Dodge Caravan (9,798)
10. 2008 Chevrolet Impala (9,225)
The following are the top 10 2015 model year vehicles stolen during calendar year 2015:
1. Nissan Altima (1,104)
2. Chrysler 200 (1,069)
3. Toyota Camry (923)
4. Toyota Corolla (776)
5. GMC Sierra (670)
6. Dodge Charger (666)
7. Hyundai Sonata (632)
8. Chevrolet Malibu (629)
9. Chevrolet Impala (594)
10. Chevrolet Cruze (586)
Download the complete list of 2015’s top 25 most stolen from this spreadsheet.
“While older vehicles still dominate our Hot Wheels most stolen list, the number of late model vehicles with anti-theft protection on the list goes to show that technology isn’t foolproof,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Criminals are doing their best to defeat anti-theft technology through hacking and other means while, at the same time, manufacturers and others are working to improve security.
“Far too often, drivers leave their vehicles unlocked or with the keys inside, making it way too easy for an opportunistic thief. And as we noted recently, many stolen cars are not reported as typical thefts to police because many of today’s thefts are financial crimes involving complicated VIN switching, cloning, straw buyers, illegal exports and other sophisticated criminal methods.”
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, 2016. 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. Total thefts is the aggregate for each make/model with model year indicating the most stolen model year of all model years for each listing.
One of the main services NICB provides is assisting law enforcement as they investigate insurance fraud and vehicle theft. In this episode of Fraud Files we focus on on a motorcycle that had been reported stolen with one that was being offered for sale on Craigslist.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports today that insured tailgate thefts declined 6 percent in 2015 reversing a consecutive five-year escalating theft trend. In 2014, 1,895 claims for tailgate theft were identified in ISO ClaimSearch®, an insurance industry claims database. That number decreased to 1,787 in 2015 for a drop of 6 percent—the first decline in claims since NICB began reviewing them in 2010.
This table shows the annual tailgate theft claim numbers from 2010:
This report is based on insurance claims; therefore, the actual number of tailgate theft incidents may be considerably higher since many thefts do not generate an insurance claim.
The top five states for tailgate thefts—2014 and 2015 combined—were: Texas (1,421), California (875), Florida (252), Arizona (204), and Pennsylvania (68). The top five cities for tailgate thefts during these years were: Houston (300), Dallas (276), San Antonio (141), Phoenix (68), and Fresno, Calif. (51).
See the complete report here.
Replacing a tailgate is expensive. A new one from the manufacturer of a popular 2015 pickup truck is about $1,300 with even higher costs for some variants. That helps explain why there is a thriving underground market for vehicle parts, a market fed with parts removed from stolen vehicles.
The underground market is driven by demand for items that can be acquired at a fraction of their legitimate cost. Tailgates are no exception. While many of these stolen tailgates end up on similar vehicles, others are simply sold for scrap, which contributes to the nationwide problem of metal theft.
Tailgate thefts can occur anywhere; several episodes of multiple thefts have occurred in single locations, such as auto dealers’ lots and shopping malls. Since a tailgate theft takes just seconds to accomplish, consumers might consider using an after-market security device, such as a hinge lock to thwart criminals.
California’s Modesto Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had the nation’s highest per capita vehicle theft rate in 2015, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) latest Hot Spots report. Moreover, California owned eight of the top 10 hot spots for vehicle theft in 2015.
NICB’s Hot Spots report 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, the number one spot, the Modesto, Calif. MSA, includes all thefts within the entire county of Stanislaus, not just the city of Modesto.
Moreover, 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.
For 2015, the 10 MSAs with the highest vehicle theft rates were: (thefts in parentheses)
|2015 Ranking||2014 Ranking|
|1. Modesto, Calif.||(4,072)||5||(3,047)|
|2. Albuquerque, N.M.||(6,657)||12||(4,754)|
|3. Bakersfield, Calif.||(6,000)||2||(5,211)|
|4. Salinas, Calif.||(2,934)||11||(2,270)|
|5. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.||(30,554)||1||(29,093)|
|6. Stockton-Lodi, Calif.||(4,656)||3||(4,245)|
|7. Pueblo, Colo.||(983)||24||(654)|
|8. Merced, Calif.||(1,605)||21||(1,132)|
|9. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.||(25,001)||14||(21,264)|
|10. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.||(2,352)||7||(2,414)|
When the FBI released preliminary, January-June 2015 crime data earlier this year, vehicle theft was up one percent across the nation. That increase is reflected in today’s Hot Spots report and the trend may hold when the final FBI 2015 crime data is published in the fall.
Notwithstanding these occasional increases, vehicle thefts are down dramatically around the nation over the last several years. Nonetheless, the reasons vehicles are stolen remain the same. Older vehicles are stolen primarily for their parts value while newer, high-end vehicles are often shipped overseas or, after some disguising, sold to an innocent buyer locally.
NICB recommends that drivers follow our four “layers of protection” to guard against vehicle theft:
- 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
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.