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Top 10 'Hot Spots' for vehicle theft
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The 10 Hot Spots For Vehicle Theft

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, more than 720,000 vehicles were stolen in the U.S. in 2012.[1] That's one every 44 seconds. While that figure includes a wide range of vehicles, from motor scooters to buses, nearly 74% were automobiles.

The FBI estimated that the thefts in 2012 represented $4.3 billion in losses. You might instinctively think that auto insurance companies bore the brunt of the cost. After all, when a car is stolen, the owner files a claim with his insurer and receive reimbursement, right?

Not exactly and certainly not all of the time. In reality, much of the cost associated with auto theft is borne by the people whose cars, trucks, and SUVs are stolen. The reason? They lack the proper type of insurance to cover the loss.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) released its updated list of the top 10 hot spots for vehicle theft in the U.S.[2] We'll present that list below. We'll also explain how auto theft impacts your auto insurance rates and provide a few tips regarding what to do if your vehicle is stolen.

Top 10 Auto Theft Hotspots In The U.S.

The rankings below were published by the NICB in June 2013. They reflect the U.S. metropolitan statistical areas that had the highest rates of auto thefts in 2012. Underneath each area is the ranking it held in last year's report.

1. Modesto, CA

2011 Ranking: #2

2. Fresno, CA

2011 Ranking: #1

3. Bakersfield-Delano, CA

2011 Ranking: #3

4. Stockton, CA

2011 Ranking: #7

5. Yakima, WA

2011 Ranking: #5

6. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

2011 Ranking: #6

7. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

2011 Ranking: #20

8. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA

2011 Ranking: #9

9. Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA

2011 Ranking: #4

10. Redding, CA

2011 Ranking: #40

One of the first things you'll notice is that the list is dominated by California. The FBI has noted that auto theft in the state as well as others in the western U.S. - e.g. Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, etc. - saw a 10.6% increase from the previous year.

If you live in the West, you'd be well-served to install an anti-theft device in your vehicle. You might also benefit from installing a kill switch or ignition disabler. These and other measures, designed to thwart would-be thieves, can also lower your insurance rates regardless of the state in which you live.

Does Your Auto Insurance Policy Cover Theft?

A lot of motorists assume that they're covered in the event their cars are stolen. But that's often a bad assumption. Many victims discover that their insurers won't compensate them.

If your insurance policy only provides the minimum coverages required by law, it won't cover you if your vehicle is stolen. If you want financial protection against the risk of auto theft, you need to add comprehensive coverage to your policy.

Unlike liability coverage, comprehensive coverage is optional. It's also relatively expensive. For those reasons, many consumers choose to drive without it. If their vehicles are stolen, they're left to pay for the loss out of their own pockets.

It's worth mentioning that certain makes and models are highly-favored among thieves. If you drive one of them, your vehicle could be exposed to considerable risk, even if your city didn't make the NICB's list of auto theft hot spots.

How Auto Theft Affects Your Insurance Rates

The extent to which auto theft impacts your insurance rates depends largely on whether you carry the type of insurance that covers it. If you have a policy that only carries the minimum coverage amounts required by your state, there's virtually no effect. Your insurer won't compensate you if your vehicle is stolen, so it has no reason to adjust your rates according to the risk.

However, that hands-off approach goes out the window if you add comprehensive coverage to your policy. Your insurance company will take into account the average rate of auto theft in your city. If vehicles are routinely stolen where you live, you'll be forced to pay higher premiums.

Your insurer will also consider the make and model of your vehicle. If it's one that is commonly targeted by thieves, expect to pay more for coverage.

What To Do If Your Vehicle Is Stolen

If you discover that your car, truck, or SUV has been stolen, take the following measures to ensure that you receive reimbursement from your insurer.

Step 1: Call the police. File a police report and ask for the report number.

Step 2: Call your insurer. File a claim and provide the representative with the police report number. You'll probably be asked to provide additional information, such as the vehicle's title and identification number (VIN). You may also be asked to supply an inventory of your belongings that were in the vehicle at the time it was stolen.

Step 3: Report the theft to the title holder. If you're currently leasing your car, inform the leasing company that it was stolen. If you're financing it, inform the bank or the financing company that holds the loan.

Step 4: Keep the receipts for your rental car. Your auto insurance company will need a few weeks to send a reimbursement check to you. You may need a rental car to get around while waiting for the check to arrive. Keep the receipts so you can file a claim to be reimbursed for the cost. Note that reimbursement for a rental will depend on your policy.

Step 5: Finalize your claim. Assuming the police are unable to find your car - or find it in good shape - you can expect your insurer to close out your claim within a few weeks. Once you receive your reimbursement check, you can start the search for a replacement vehicle.

Auto theft is a significant problem that's not going away anytime in the near future. If anything, the problem will continue to grow. If you don't currently have comprehensive coverage on your policy, consider adding it. If you already have it, ask your insurance company whether you qualify for discounts that can reduce your rates.

Sources:

[1] http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/property-crime/motor-vehicle-theft

[2] https://www.nicb.org/newsroom/news-releases/hot-spots-2012




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