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.

 

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.

 

Hail Bombs, Flooding and Stolen Vehicles Highlight NICB’s Fall Newscast

In this edition of NICB News we focus on the devastating floods in Louisiana, a major hailstorm in Colorado and check in at this year’s IASIU conference in Las Vegas.

To view more episodes of NICB News click here.

Hot Spots in the Media

Here’s a list of media outlets who have picked up on our annual Hot Spots report:

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NICB’s 2015 Hot Spots Vehicle Theft Report

 

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Modesto Tops San Francisco With Worst Vehicle-Theft Rate in U.S.

 

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Car thieves love L.A.: California leads the nation (again) in auto thefts

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Top 100 Metro Areas for Vehicle Theft: NICB’s ‘Hot Spots’

 

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Bakersfield ranks No. 3 in nation for car thefts per capita

 

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California
owns eight of the top 10 hot spots for vehicle theft

Eight California Metro Areas Place in Top 10 For Vehicle Theft

Computer generated 3D photo rendering.

California owned eight of the the top 10 hot sports for vehicle theft in 2015.

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.

car-traffic_z1HStUFdNotwithstanding 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.

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

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.

 

Auto Theft Investigators Say “Mystery Devices” Are a Growing Threat

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NICB

A poll of professional auto theft investigators from across the globe shows that they are becoming increasingly convinced that mystery devices aimed at breaking into vehicles are getting into the hands of criminals.

At this week’s 63rd Annual Training Seminar of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI), the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) conducted a live poll to assess the awareness of the mostly law enforcement audience concerning the mystery devices.

Based on the unscientific poll, 74 percent said they believe these so-called mystery devices can be used to unlock a vehicle, while 26 percent said they don’t believe these devices work. In addition, 36 percent said they believe the devices can also be used to start and steal a vehicle, although so far, NICB has not confirmed a single reported vehicle theft in the U.S. from this kind of technique.

Only 8 percent said they had actually witnessed a device breaking into or starting a car.

“It was just over a year ago the NICB was the first to warn about the threat of these mystery devices,” said NICB Chief Operating Officer Jim Schweitzer, who conducted the poll. “Last year this was barely a blip on the radar of law enforcement and theft investigators. Now it’s getting everyone’s attention, including the manufacturers who are the front line of defense against these devices.”

Speakers at the Phoenix seminar said recent publicity about hackers deliberately exposing the weaknesses in anti-theft technology may be a good thing.

“To the extent that this does drive more robust software code that is more difficult for some to crack, overall that’s a good thing,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, the former Chief of the Auto Theft Bureau. “But trying to make an industry out of it? I think those are very questionable motives.”

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.

2014 Hot Spots Vehicle Theft Report

stolen-carDes Plaines, Ill—California’s San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had the nation’s highest per capita vehicle theft rate in 2014, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) latest Hot Spots report. 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 Bakersfield, Calif., MSA includes all thefts within the entire county of Kern, not just the city of Bakersfield. 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 2014, the 10 MSAs with the highest vehicle theft rates were: (thefts in parentheses)

2014HotSpotsRankings

Although vehicle thefts are down dramatically around the nation, the reasons they are stolen remain the same. Older vehicles are stolen primarily for their parts value while newer, high- end vehicles often are shipped overseas or, after some disguising, sold to an innocent buyer locally.

Others, meanwhile, are still taken for the oldest of motivations—a “joyride” and when the thrill is gone, it is abandoned undamaged. The full Hot Spots report is available at www.nicb.org. 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.

 
Here’s a report from Bloomberg Radio on the trend in California.

NICB Agent Honored for Combating Vehicle Theft

NICB Special Agent John Anderson was the recipient of the 2014 Western States Auto Theft Investigators (WSATI) Northwest Chapter Gary Lindell Award. The Gary Lindell Award is given annually to a WSATI-NW Chapter member in recognition of their contribution and dedication to WSATI’s mission of combating vehicle theft. In 2014 Anderson served as president of the WSATI-NW Chapter.

JohnAndersonAward

WSATI-NW Chapter Awards Chairperson Frank Zangar (right) presents NICB SA John Anderson with the Gary Lindell Award