Auto insurance: FBI says car thefts decreased from 2009 to 2010
Good news for American drivers (and auto insurance policyholders): The number of car thefts reported in the United States fell 7.2 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to preliminary FBI figures. The news was even better for drivers in small cities (those with fewer than 10,000 residents), which saw the biggest decline in car thefts — 10.8 percent.
In fact, cities of every size witnessed drops in the number of car thefts from 2009 to 2010:
• 100,000 to 249,999 residents — Down 9.4 percent.
• 10,000 to 24,999 residents — Down 9 percent.
• 50,000 to 99,999 residents — Down 7.6 percent.
• 25,000 to 49,999 residents — Down 7.5 percent.
• 1 million or more residents — Down 6.3 percent.
• 500,000 to 999,999 residents — Down 6 percent.
• 250,000 to 499,999 residents — Down 4.9 percent.
Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, says several factors have contributed to a continuing downturn in car thefts, including better factory-installed anti-theft devices, technology such as “bait” cars and license plate readers to catch the most active car thieves, and aggressive prosecution of car thieves.
Car thefts up in some major cities
Despite the overall numbers going down, some large U.S. cities — those with at least 100,000 residents — did experience increases in car thefts from 2009 to 2010.
A review of FBI figures by InsuranceQuotes.com showed Frisco, Texas (a Dallas suburb) led the car theft pack, with a 53 percent rise from 2009 to 2010. It’s worth noting that only 74 car thefts were reported in Frisco in 2009. A year later, 113 car thefts were reported.
In second place was Billings, Mont., up 43 percent. The number of car thefts there went from 253 in 2009 to 362 in 2010, according to the FBI.
Following Frisco and Billings were:
• Fresno, Calif., up 40 percent.
• Joliet, Ill., up 39 percent.
• Pueblo, Colo., up 31 percent.
• Port St. Lucie, Fla., up 30 percent.
• Antioch, Calif., up 29 percent.
• Topeka, Kan., up 24 percent.
• Chicago, up 23 percent.
• McKinney, Texas, up 23 percent.
• Pasadena, Calif., up 22 percent.
• Pomona, Calif., up 22 percent.
Getting auto theft coverage
Auto theft is covered under the comprehensive section of an auto insurance policy, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Standard auto liability policies — required in all but two states — do not include comprehensive coverage. Adding comprehensive coverage means you’ll pay higher premiums than if you simply stick with liability coverage.
Theft coverage applies to the loss of a car as well as car parts, such as air bags, the Insurance Information Institute says. Nationwide, more than 75,000 air bags are stolen every year.
In 2009, the value of stolen cars totaled nearly $5.2 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The average value of a car stolen in 2009 was $6,505.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Laredo, Texas, was the car theft capital among U.S. metropolitan areas in 2009. That year, 742 cars were stolen for every 100,000 residents of the Laredo area. Next on the 2009 list was Modesto, Calif., followed by Bakersfield, Calif.; Stockton, Calif.; Fresno, Calif.; Yakima, Wash.; San Francisco; Visalia-Porterville, Calif.; Las Vegas; and Albuquerque, N.M.
Preventing car theft
The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers these tips for preventing car theft:
• Park in a well-lit area.
• Remember to remove your keys from the ignition once you’ve parked your car.
• Lock your doors and close your windows when your car is parked.
• Consider using anti-theft devices such as alarms, brake locks, wheel locks and theft-deterrent decals.
• Look at installing devices that “immobilize” your car, such as kill switches and “smart” keys.
• Investigate tracking devices, which emit signals to police or monitoring stations when a car is stolen. “Tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles,” the National Insurance Crime Bureau says.