Car theft rates in America have plunged recently. In 1990, the rate topped 657 for every 100,00 people. By 2020, that figure fell sharply to 246 per 100,000. The Insurance Institute posted research that shows the cost of car theft to the economy remains high. Car theft costs Americans $7.4 billion in 2020 as 810,400 vehicles were stolen.
No single reason explains the drop. The list that law enforcement gives includes better antitheft technology and harder legal crackdowns on thieves. Technology has pushed car theft toward older models that do not have sophisticated systems to prevent the practice.
Using data from the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the city where your car is most likely to be stolen. Cities, defined as places with populations greater than 25,000, are ranked by the number of motor vehicle thefts reported for every 100,000 people.
In every one of the cities we considered, vehicle theft rates are far higher than — and in some cases more than five times — the national rate of 246 incidents per 100,000 people. Most of the cities we looked at are in the West, including 15 in California alone.
Motor vehicle theft — along with larceny and burglary — is one of three criminal offenses that comprise the property crime category. Due in large part to higher than average vehicle theft rates, in every city that was part of our evaluation, the overall property crime rate exceeds the national rate of 1,958 incidents per 100,000 people.
The city where people are most likely to have their cars stolen was South Salt Lake, Utah. Here are the details:
> 2020 vehicle thefts per 100K people: 1,789.6
> Total vehicle thefts: 462 — 190th highest of 1,446 cities
> Property crimes per 100K people: 9,203.6 — the highest of 1,361 cities
> Total property crimes: 2,376 — 290th highest of 1,361 cities
> Population: 25,017
Methodology: To determine the city where your car is most likely to be stolen, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed motor vehicle theft figures from the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report.
We included cities that have more than 25,000 people based on five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. Limited data were available in the 2020 UCR for areas in Alabama, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Illinois, though cities in these states were not excluded from the analysis.
Data for property crime — a category that includes larceny-theft, burglary, and motor vehicle theft — also came from the 2020 FBI UCR. Population figures are five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. However, these estimates were not used to calculate crime rates. Crime rates per 100,000 people were calculated using population figures provided by the FBI in the 2020 UCR.
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