NICB 'Hot Spots': Auto Thefts Up Significantly Across the Country

2021 Hot Spots Web Banner

Washington, D.C., Colorado Lead States, While Bakersfield, Calif., Posts Highest Theft Rates

Auto Thefts by State 2016 - 2020 | 2018 - 2020 State Auto Thefts by MSA | 2020 Auto Thefts by MSA Ranking 

DES PLAINES, Ill., August 31, 2021 — The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) much anticipated Hot Spots report shows Colorado auto thefts increased by 37% in 2020 over 2019. Additionally, the Bakersfield, Calif, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had the highest theft rate in the country for the second consecutive year. Overall, there were 880,595 vehicle thefts nationwide in 2020, about one stolen vehicle every 36 seconds, up from 794,019 in 2019.

2021 Hot Spots Web Infographic

“Auto thefts saw a dramatic increase in 2020 versus 2019 in part due to the pandemic, an economic downturn, law enforcement realignment, depleted social and schooling programs, and, in still too many cases, owner complacency,” said David Glawe, president and CEO of the NICB. “For many people, a car is the second largest investment they will ever make behind a home. As such, it is important to take simple steps to protect your investment–lock your car and take your keys, no matter where you live.”

Colorado’s thefts increased from 21,299 in 2019 to 29,162 thefts in 2020. Driving the increase in thefts in the state is the Denver Metropolitan Statistical Area. Thefts in the region increased by more than 7,000 rising from 14,093 in 2019 to 21,112 in 2020.

California leads states in total thefts with 187,094. Texas follows with 93,521, and Florida with 44,940. These three states alone account for 37% of all thefts nationally.

Of metropolitan statistical areas, Bakersfield leads the pack with a theft rate of 905.41. The theft rate is the total number of thefts per 100,000 residents.

Though thefts in 2020 jumped up significantly nationally, 10 states realized declines in total thefts.

The Hot Spots report examines vehicle theft data obtained from the National Crime Information Center for each of the nation’s metropolitan statistical areas. These are designated by the Office of Management and Budget and often include municipalities other than the cities for which metropolitan statistical areas are named. For example, Bakersfield, Calif., includes the entire county of Kern, not just the city of Bakersfield.

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 | Top 10 States by Rate | Top 10 MSAs by Rate | States With Declining Thefts

As a population-based survey, an area with a much smaller population can have a higher theft rate than an area with a greater number of thefts. Creating a theft rate, or number of thefts per 100,000 people, enables analysts to compare large regions, such as Los Angeles, with small regions, such as Hot Springs, Ark.

NICB recommends drivers follow four layers of protection to guard against vehicle theft.

  1. Common sense. Vehicle owners should always remove keys from the ignition, lock doors and windows, and park in well-lit areas.
  2. Warning devices. These include visible and audible alarms. Aftermarket alarms are available for all makes and models of cars. Visual devices include column collars, steering wheel locks, and brake locks.
  3. Immobilizing devices. The third layer of protection prevents thieves from bypassing the ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some examples are smart keys; fuse cut-offs; kill switches; starter, ignition, and fuel pump disablers; and wireless ignition authentication.
  4. Tracking devices. Tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles. Some systems 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.

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If you have a question, want further information on the NICB, or to discuss insurance fraud or vehicle crime, please contact:

Joe Brenckle
Director, Public Affairs

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Public Affairs Specialist

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Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422) or submitting a form on our website.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to combatting and preventing insurance crime through Intelligence, Analytics, and Operations; Education and Crime Prevention; and Strategy, Policy, and Advocacy. The NICB is supported by more than 1,200 property-casualty insurers, self-insureds, rental car, vehicle finance, and auto auctions. To learn more, visit