In 2020, there were 880,595 vehicle thefts nationwide, up a staggering 86,000 from 2019’s 794,019, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s annual Hot Spots reports.
That translates into one vehicle stolen approximately every 36 seconds and a more than 10% surge in total thefts.
The report explores vehicle theft by locations, finding that California was the top state in total thefts with 187,094 in 2020. Texas follows with 93,521, and Florida with 44,940. These three states alone account for 37% of all thefts nationally, notes the report.
But NICB’s Hot Spots digs even deeper, assessing thefts in Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and cities.
While the Bakersfield, Calif. MSA has the dubious distinction for topping the list two consecutive years with a theft rate of 905 thefts for every 100,000 residents — a massive increase of nearly 200 thefts per 100,000 residents — Colorado also saw incredible theft increases. The Denver, Colo. MSA made its first appearance in the NICB Top 10 list in 2020 — increasing from 14,093 thefts in 2019 up to 21,112 thefts in 2020. That translates into a nearly 50% increase in thefts in a single year.
As for the top five cities for auto theft in 2020, Houston, Texas, leads the way with 21,817 stolen vehicles followed by Los Angeles (18,287), Chicago (13,028), Dallas (10,171), and New York (9,972). With the exception of Dallas, which saw thefts decline 7%, these cities all had theft increases. Houston increased by 11%, Los Angeles by 35%, Chicago by 11% and New York by a whopping 25%.
Experts at NICB say the dramatic increase in auto thefts in 2020 was due to a combination of factors including the pandemic, an economic downturn, law enforcement realignment, depleted social and schooling programs, and owner complacency.