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Report: Vehicle Theft Rate at Lowest Level Since 1960

Car jackings peaked in '91 but new tech now protects us

Jason Udy
Dec 9, 2014

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has released the latest vehicle theft figures, which track instances of automotive theft all the way back to 1960. With 221.3 thefts per 100,000 registered vehicles (0.22 percent) last year, vehicle thefts are at their lowest since 1960. A total of 699,594 vehicles were stolen in 2013.

Vehicle thefts peaked in 1991 with 863.02 vehicles stolen per 100,000 registrations (0.86 percent) or nearly 1 percent of registered vehicles. Total vehicle thefts reached 1,661,738 in 1991 -- the highest number of stolen vehicles since 1960. While vehicle thefts in 1960 were at about 0.44 percent (328,200 total thefts), the trend gradually rose until 1991.

Ncib vehicle thefts 2013 Photo 2/2   |   Ncib Vehicle Thefts 2013

Thanks to the addition of new vehicle technology, such as electronic ignition lockouts and smart keys, thefts began to decline in the early 1990s. Vehicle thefts dropped 30 percent from 1991 to 2000. After a slight rise from 2000 to 2003, thefts again dropped 43 percent from 2004 to 2011. Cases of stolen cars climbed slightly again in 2012 before dropping to the lowest levels last year.

The NICB credits the drop in vehicle thefts to other factors like better police officer training including special task forces. Other technology like remote surveillance cameras and automated license plate readers also contributed to the downward trend. Bait cars have also been effective in catching vehicle thieves.

But improvements in vehicle security have led to more sophisticated theft tactics, such as key theft or falsifying documents to have a new key made at a dealership or by a locksmith. Other tactics include stealing rental cars or keeping the spare key to steal from a future renter; using stolen identities to finance high-end vehicles that are later shipped overseas; and VIN switching, where a stolen vehicle is given a different VIN from a clean vehicle.

Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau

By Jason Udy
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