By SABRA STAFFORD
Staff reporter of the
Ceres (Calif.) Courier
Once again the local area has laid claim to a title no city wants: "Auto Theft Capital of the USA."
The National Insurance Crime Bureau's report Hot Spots has ranked the Modesto statistical metropolitan area, which includes all of Stanislaus County, as having the highest rate of vehicle thefts in 2015.
Modesto ranked number one with 4,072 auto thefts recorded in 2015. That gave the area a rate of 756 auto thefts per 100,000 people, according to the NICB. This is the seventh time the Modesto area has taken the top spot since 2004. In 2014, the area was ranked fifth and in 2013 the area was third.
Modesto was not the only California city to land on the top ten spots for auto thefts. California owned eight of the top 10 hot spots for vehicle theft in 2015. Bakersfield, Salinas, San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Stockton-Lodi, Merced, Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, and Vallejo-Fairfield.
When the FBI released preliminary, January-June 2015 crime data earlier this year, vehicle theft was up one percent across the nation. Prior to that vehicle thefts have been down around the nation over the last several years, according to the NICB.
Ceres Police Chief Brent Smith advised citizens to beware of what kind of car they are buying as far as car theft statistics are concerned "and what they can do to keep it safe."
"There's cars that are very easy to steal with shaved keys or break the steering column," said Smith. "There's some that are very, very difficult to steal, unless you're a pro and there's not a lot of pros here. Your Honda Civics and older Chevy trucks get stolen a lot. Kill switches and battery disconnectors, any little thing you can go to slow them down and stop them, where you park your car matters. Some people have had their cars stolen multiple times and they leave it sitting in the same place."
The NICB stated older vehicles are stolen primarily for their parts value while newer, high-end vehicles are often shipped overseas or, after some disguising, sold to an innocent buyer locally. The 2014 Hot Wheels report from the NICB ranks the Honda Accord as the most frequently stolen vehicle, with the Honda Civic following behind it. Rounding out the top 10 list are: Ford full size pickups, Chevrolet full size pickups, Toyota Camry, Dodge full size pickups, Dodge Caravan, Nissan Altima, Acura Integra, and Nissan Maxima.
NICB recommends that drivers follow four layers of protection to guard against vehicle theft:
Common Sense - the common sense approach to protection is the easiest and most cost-effective way to thwart would-be thieves. You should always:
• Remove your keys from the ignition.
• Lock your doors/close your windows.
• Park in a well-lit area.
Warning Device - the second layer of protection is a visible or audible device which alerts thieves that your vehicle is protected. Popular devices include:
• Audible alarms.
• Steering column collars.
• Steering wheel/brake pedal lock.
• Brake locks.
• Wheel locks.
• Theft deterrent decals.
• Identification markers in or on vehicle.
• VIN etching.
• Micro dot marking.
Immobilizing Device - the third layer of protection is a device which prevents thieves from bypassing your ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some electronic devices have computer chips in ignition keys. Other devices inhibit the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until a hidden switch or button is activated. Some examples are:
• Smart keys.
• Fuse cut-offs.
• Kill switches.
• Starter, ignition, and fuel pump disablers.
• Wireless ignition authentication.
Tracking Device - the final layer of protection is a tracking device which emits a signal to police or a monitoring station when the vehicle is stolen. Tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles.
Some systems employ "telematics" which combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of a vehicle. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked via computer.
Chief Smith said that car manufacturers are doing better with making cars that are harder to steal.
(Jeff Benziger contributed to this report).