Hot Spots 2020
Do you live in a “hot spot” for auto theft? According to an annual report published by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, car thefts increased significantly in 2020 — up 11 percent in one year. “Auto thefts saw a dramatic increase in 2020 versus 2019 in part due to the pandemic, an economic downturn . . . and, in still too many cases, owner complacency,” said David Glawe, president and CEO of the NICB, a not-for-profit organization combatting insurance crime. The NICB Hot Spots report covers the top metropolitan areas and states by theft rate, meaning number of vehicle thefts per 100,000 residents. There were a total of 880,595 car thefts in the U.S. during 2020 — about one vehicle stolen every 36 seconds. Here we count down the metro areas, then states, with the most auto thefts in 2020.
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10. Tulsa, Oklahoma
551.76 Theft Rate
With a population of 413,066 as of the 2020 census, Tulsa is the second-largest city in the state of Oklahoma and the 47th most populous city in America according to the United States Census Bureau. In terms of vehicle thefts during 2020, Tulsa comes in as the 10th most popular metropolitan area — for car thieves — with a vehicle theft rate of 551 cars per 100,000 residents.
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9. St. Joseph, Missouri
564.64 Theft Rate
Year over year, St. Joseph moved from No. 3 on the 2019 Hot Spots list to No. 9 on the 2020 list, showing significant improvement in vehicle thefts during a tough time. The metro area had 564 cars pinched per 100,000 residents of the city on the Missouri River.
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8. Billings, Montana
564.75 Theft Rate
New to the NICB Hot Spots Top 10 list is Billings, Montana, which moved up from No. 42 in 2019 to No. 8 in 2020 — the highest number of spots jumped into the Top 10 by one metro area year over year. Last year in Montana’s largest city, thieves drove off with 564 cars for every 100,000 residents in the Billings area.
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7. Pueblo, Colorado
602.39 Theft Rate
One of the biggest steel-producing cities in the United States, Pueblo, Colorado, moves up from No. 12 on the 2019 NICB Hot Spots list to No. 7 for 2020, with 602 vehicles stolen per 100,000 residents in the city’s metropolitan statistical area, which is the most populous municipality of Pueblo County.
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6. Albuquerque, New Mexico
631.75 Theft Rate
Showing vast improvement over 2019, Albuquerque moved from No. 2 on the Hot Spots list to No. 6 for 2020, with 631 nabbed vehicles per 100,000 Albuquerqueans. In terms of automobile theft, it seems as if the city setting for “Breaking Bad” is on a trajectory for making good.
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5. San Francisco, California
655.20 Theft Rate
Three California metro areas made the 2020 NICB Hot Spots report, with San Francisco at No. 5 thanks to a theft rate of 655 vehicles per 100,000 residents. Last year car thieves were certainly active in the City by the Bay.
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4. Odessa, Texas
664.28 Theft Rate
Onetime home of First Lady Barbara Bush and Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, the Texas city of Odessa sits above the Permian Basin, a sedimentary deposit that contains large oil and natural gas reserves. The local economy is driven by the oil industry, and thieves in Odessa have been capitalizing on vehicles “available” throughout the city. In 2020 there were 664 vehicles taken by car thieves for every 100,000 residents of Odessa.
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3. Denver, Colorado
705.80 Theft Rate
Denver holds the distinction of having the most drastic change in vehicle thefts from 2019 to 2020. In 2019 there were 14,093 cars stolen in the Denver statistical area, and that number increased to 21,112 vehicle thefts in 2020 — a theft increase of almost 50 percent. Crunching the numbers, last year car thieves made off with 705 vehicles per 100,000 residents in the Denver area.
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2. Yuba City, California
724.46 Theft Rate
Moving up five spots since last year’s NICB Hot Wheels report, Yuba City is now the second-most-popular metro area for car thieves in America, with 724 vehicles pilfered per 100,000 residents.
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1. Bakersfield, California
905.41 Theft Rate
Bakersfield and surrounding Kern County tops the NICB Hot Spots list as the metropolitan area with the most stolen vehicles — 905 vehicles swiped per 100,000 residents. This is the second year in a row that Bakersfield has earned the dubious honor of being the hottest metro spot for vehicle theft in the nation.
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325.28 Theft Rate
Also known as The Sunflower State and The Wheat State, Kansas is one of the most agriculturally productive regions within the Midwestern United States. Unfortunately Kansas is also productive when it comes to the highest number of vehicle thefts among individual U.S. states, coming in at No. 10 on the NICB Hot Spots states list with 325 vehicles stolen per 100,000 residents.
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365.84 Theft Rate
Probably most famous for the glitzy gambling hubs of Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada also stakes a dubious claim as a state where car thieves also try their luck pilfering cars on a fairly regular basis. In 2020 high-rolling robbers nabbed an average of 365 vehicles per 100,000 residents.
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368.46 Theft Rate
In a state home to rugged beauty as well as high-tech giants Microsoft and Amazon, Washington residents need to keep their eyes on their vehicles as much as on the incredibly scenery. Last year thieves made off with an average of 368 vehicles per 100,000 residents in The Evergreen State.
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371.28 Theft Rate
Oklahoma relies on production of natural gas, oil, agriculture, aviation and biotech to keep its economy afloat. Cracking the Top 10 for metro-area vehicle thefts, Tulsa helped contribute to Oklahoma making the state Hot Spots list in 2021. Oklahoma City is another economic anchor, with nearly two-thirds of all Oklahomans living in the metro areas of these two cities. These high concentrations of people might also contribute to the high incidence of auto theft in The Sooner State, with 371 vehicle thefts per 100,000 residents in 2020.
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385.08 Theft Rate
Coming right after Oklahoma both alphabetically and in terms of an increasing number of auto thefts per year in 2020, Oregon residents experienced an average 385 thefts per 100,000 residents.
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5. New Mexico
426.19 Theft Rate
One of the hottest states for vehicle theft is quite literally one of the hottest states in terms of weather. New Mexico is also home to Roswell and the International UFO Museum and Research Center. Talk about unidentified objects and things out of this world — in 2020 this vehicle theft hot spot experienced 426 stolen vehicles for every 100,000 residents.
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453.63 Theft Rate
Nicknamed The Show Me State, Missouri played a pivotal role in Western U.S. expansion as home to the Pony Express, The Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail and the California Trail. Today more than six million people call Missouri home, and among them operate some pretty busy car thieves. In 2020 there were more than 450 vehicle thefts per 100,000 residents, with the St. Joseph metro area at an even more pivotal number of 564 car thefts per 100,000 St. Joe residents.
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475.24 Theft Rate
California leads the country as the state with the most thefts: 187,094 in 2020. Why the high number? Three of the Top 10 metro area hot spots are also in California: Bakersfield, Yuba City and San Francisco. Statistically speaking, the Golden State has a theft rate of 475 cars per 100,000 residents.
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502.12 Theft Rate
According to the NICB Hot Spots report, thefts in Colorado increased dramatically from 21,299 during 2019 to 29,162 in 2020 — a rise of 37 percent. The Denver metro area greatly contributed to the state’s jump with thefts increasing by more than 7,000 vehicles.
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1. Washington, D.C.
562.98 Theft Rate
The NICB Hot Spots report reveals that the high vehicle theft rate of 562 cars per 100,000 residents in the nation’s capital places it at the top of states with highest number of thefts in 2020. This theft rate represents a 40 percent jump in D.C.-area vehicle thefts over 2019.
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To prevent auto theft, the NICB recommends four layers of protection: warning devices, including visible and audible alarms; immobilizing devices to prevent thieves from circumventing the ignition to hotwire the car; tracking devices and remote monitoring; and finally, common sense. Vehicle owners should always remove keys from the vehicle and keep all doors and windows locked, as well as park in well-lighted areas.