Hit video game “Grand Theft Auto V” takes place in a fictional version of Los Angeles, where players can steal any car they see with the press of a button. Although just a game, there may be some reality here, too.
California has by far the higest rate of car theft in America, with 443 car thefts per 100,000 residents, according to the FBI’s recently released uniform crime report for 2012.
We mapped car theft rates across America along with maps of other crimes to reveal this and other notable trends.
Washington state came in second with 382 car thefts per 100,000 people, while Vermont had the least at just under 70 per 100,000 people.
Although the FBI’s crime report relies on reports from police precincts, causing the agency to caution against comparing data from different cities and states, another big source of auto theft data backed up the FBI’s report. In June the National Insurance Crime Bureau named the 10 U.S. cities that were “hot spots” for auto theft in 2012. Eight of those hot spots were in California, and two were in Washington state.
California’s proximity to Mexico — where many stolen cars are found — could be one reason for the high number of thefts, Forbes has pointed out. It’s also warm there, keeping cars in decent condition and enticing thieves who want to sell them abroad, green car blogger Jim Motavalli has written. Some Bay Area cops blame recent thefts on a 2011 California law known as “realignment,” which gives police incentives to shorten jail sentences for nonviolent offenders, the San Jose Mercury News has reported.
“The types of crimes that folks are getting realigned back into the community for … are the ones more likely to include stealing cars,” Mountain View police Lt. Jessica Nowaski told the Mercury News.
A number of California cities have also had to cut back on their auto theft task forces, according to the Mercury News. While police departments may save money by slimming their car theft ranks, these thefts are costing Californians a ton of money.
In 2012 the state reported that auto thefts cost the state $US1 billion the prior year. It’s not just a crime that affects the wealthy. The top three auto thefts for 2011 were the Honda Accord models from 1994, 1996, and 1991 — good cars but not fancy ones by any means.
The green car blogger, Jim Motavalli, has written about the agony of having a car stolen.
“I’ve had several cars stolen,” he wrote, “and it’s a gut-wrenching experience when your automobile is reduced to an oil smudge and some nuggets of broken glass on the pavement.”
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