Living in California? Watch Out For Car Thieves!


First the good news: car theft in America is at its lowest number in 40 years. Now, the not-so-good news: there are still plenty of cars stolen every year, and some cities are worse than others. In fact, among the top ten cities with the most car theft, one fact stands out: eight out of the ten cities are in California, with the remaining two in Washington state. Californians, be thankful for auto insurance!

You might assume that the number one city is Los Angeles. But you wouldn’t be right. In fact, the City of Angels doesn’t even make the top ten, and the only major city on the list is San Francisco, although some cities on the list, such as Modesto, are fairly close to a metropolitan area.

No, it’s really the smaller cities and the suburbs that should make car owners nervous: cities like Bakersfield, Visalia, Sacramento, and the number one city…Fresno. Apparently your car is much safer in South Central than it is in the outlying planned communities of Los Angeles.

So what, precisely, makes the Golden State such a mecca for car thieves? We’ve got a few theories…

#1) Demand. California has 32 million registered cars for 36 million residents, more than ten percent of the population of the entire United States. And, despite having several major cities, it’s still got a lot of towns and cities without major public transit networks. That means there’s a huge demand for both cars and for car parts…something car thieves like to see.

#2) There are more exotic cars. California has had a “car culture” for decades, and between the money from Hollywood and the money from Silicon Valley, there are far more “exotics” per capita than in most states. Car thieves love exotic cars because they’re expensive, in high demand, and thus very easy to sell.

#3) Access to shipping. Many car thieves, if they’re not planning on stripping the cars and selling the parts, need to move the vehicles they’ve stolen across borders or overseas, for easier sale. California, with its many ports of call, offers lots of opportunities for thieves to get stolen cars out of the country quickly and quietly.

So what can Californians do to protect their valuable vehicles?

First of all, write down all the information about your car: make, model, tag number, VIN number, and any other identifying numbers you can locate. Have that on your person at all times (e.g., in your wallet or smartphone). The sooner you make a call to the police with this information, the sooner they can come looking for it.

Install a tracking system in your car. Many modern tracking systems use GPS devices to find cars and allow police to arrest the perpetrators with ease. A tracking system will probably find your car for you well before a thief can strip it.

Above all, use common sense. Park your car in areas that are well-lit, observed, and see regular foot traffic. Don’t park your car illegally, as thieves may pretend to be parking authorities and remove the vehicle right under your nose. And, of course, use your judgment: if a neighborhood looks bad, park somewhere else. Hopefully, you’ll be able to keep your car where it belongs: with you.

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