September 19, 2003

U.S. auto thefts increasing

Baltimore, Maryland – More than 1.2 million vehicles worth more than U.S.$8.2 billion are stolen in the United States each year with approximately 200,000 illegally exported out of the country, says the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

FBI statistics show that vehicle theft increased 4.2 percent during the first six-months of 2002, compared with the same period in 2001 (latest data available), continuing an upward trend after over a 30% decline in the 1990’s.

At the same time, the recovery rate of stolen vehicles has declined from the mid 80 percent in the early 1990 to 62 percent in 2001 (latest data available). Many of the un-recovered vehicles are shipped overseas or driven across international borders. NICB estimates approximately 200,000 stolen vehicles are illegally exported out of the country each year.

“People who live in communities near ports and international borders need to pay special attention to protecting their cars and trucks from thieves,” said Robert M. Bryant, NICB president and chief executive officer. He also noted that the decline in the recovery rate is particularly troublesome.

“The drop in recoveries of stolen vehicles indicates growth in well-organized, professional theft rings who direct stolen vehicles to ‘chop shops’ which dismantle them for parts or transport them out of the country,” Bryant said.

The NICB recommends a layered approach to preventing theft, with the number of layers depending on the vehicle, geographic location, budget and personal preference. There are four layers of protection to consider: common sense — removing keys and locking doors; visible and audible devices — steering wheel locks or alarms; immobilizing devises — cut-off switches and fuel disablers; and tracking devices that give police the location of a stolen vehicle.

The NICB web site,, features an interactive quiz that helps people determine their own level of risk for vehicle theft based on characteristics such as the type of car they drive and where they live.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau is the nation’s premier not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to fighting insurance fraud and theft for the benefit of its customers and the public through information analysis, forecasting, criminal investigation support, training and public awareness. The NICB is supported by approximately 1,000 property/casualty insurance companies.

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