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Motor Vehicle Theft



The FBI includes the theft or attempted theft of automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles, scooters, snowmobiles and other vehicles in its definition of motor vehicle theft. The FBI reports that $7.4 billion was lost to motor vehicle theft in 2020. The average dollar loss per theft was $9,166.

In 2020, 810,400 vehicles were stolen, the highest annual number of vehicles stolen since 2008, when 959,059 vehicles were stolen.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) counts the pandemic, economic downturn, loss of juvenile outreach programs and public safety budgetary and resource limitations as contributing factors of the motor vehicle increase in 2020.

Vehicle thefts had been trending downward in the 26 years since they peaked at 1.7 million in 1991, falling 56 percent to 724,872 in 2019, according to the FBI. The National Insurance Crime Bureau credits law enforcement efforts, along with the creation of specific antitheft programs, technology, and insurance company-supported organizations such as the NICB for contributing to the theft reduction.

Despite the reduction in vehicle thefts over the past two decades, industry observers caution that thieves constantly devise new and sophisticated means of stealing autos. Tactics include acquiring smart keys, which eliminated hot-wiring to steal cars; switching vehicle identification numbers; and using stolen identities to secure loans for expensive vehicles.

Also alarming is the finding that there were 229,339 vehicle thefts with keys or fobs left in the vehicles between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2018. According to the NICB, this represents a 56 percent increase in vehicle thefts with keys or fobs in the vehicle from the 147,434 vehicles stolen in this manner between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2015. The 2016 to 2018 vehicles stolen works out to 209 vehicles every day during those three years. The top five states with the most thefts with keys or fobs left in the vehicle during this period were California (31,185), Florida (17,300), Texas (15,511), Ohio (12,596) and Nevada (11,391).

The NICB also reports that thefts of catalytic converters, devices that convert the engine’s environmentally hazardous exhaust into less harmful gasses, have been rising significantly. In 2018, there were 1,298 catalytic converter thefts reported, more than doubling to 3,389 in 2019. By 2020 they grew more than four-fold, soaring to 14,433 thefts, with December leading the way with 2,347 thefts, or roughly 16 percent of the yearly total. Catalytic converter theft repairs could cost thousands of dollars.

Be aware and keep your vehicle secure, don’t become a statistic.

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