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The best places to get your car stolen


car theftThough car thefts have actually declined since 2008 in more than four-fifths of the country, metro areas in California and some border states continue to experience high rates -- landing them at the top of the latest nationwide list of the best places in the U.S. to get your car stolen. For the past six years, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has compiled local car theft details into a rundown of the nation's hot spots for missing automobiles. The top 20 metro areas are:

  1. Laredo, Texas
  2. Modesto, Calif.
  3. Bakersfield, Calif.
  4. Stockton, Calif.
  5. Fresno, Calif.
  6. Yakima, Wash.
  7. San Francisco, Calif. (including Oakland)
  8. Visalia, Calif.
  9. Las Vegas, Nev.
  10. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  11. Sacramento, Calif.
  12. Detroit, Mich.
  13. San Diego, Calif.
  14. El Centro, Calif.
  15. Columbus, Georgia
  16. Vallejo, Calif.
  17. Riverside, Calif. (including San Bernardino)
  18. Spokane, Wash.
  19. Jackson, Miss.
  20. Macon, Georgia

California residents probably wish they saw a lot less of their state on the NICB's Top 20 list, especially since a ZIP code with a reputation for car theft can cause car insurance quotes to skyrocket.

Car Insurance Companies' Tips for Avoiding Auto Theft

Especially if you live in one of the metro areas that tops the NICB's list, the bureau recommends some simple steps to help prevent your car from being stolen:

  • Warn car thieves with visible or audible devices. Anyone who's lived in a major city knows that many Americans now ignore car alarms. Still, the NICB says that you can deter many criminals by making your car a less attractive target. Announcing that your car has a theft deterrent system or etching a tracking code into your windows may motivate a thief to move on.
  • Immobilize your vehicle. "Smart keys" and similar electronic devices can immobilize your car if criminals gain entry and attempt to hot-wire it.
  • Track your stolen car. Law enforcement officials can track stolen cars using satellite and cell tower technology. Remotely activated systems can provide a live location of a tracked car.

Of course, all the tools and techniques in the world may not be as effective in preventing a car theft in the first place -- and preserving your low car insurance rates -- as exercising your own common sense. According to the NICB, a few simple habits can often make the difference:

  • Take the car keys with you when you park.
  • Lock your doors.
  • Close your windows.
  • Park in well-lit areas.

Even if you don't live in one of the nation's top car theft cities, following this advice can help prevent your car from becoming a statistic in your own neighborhood.

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