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 |  Jun 22 2011, 12:57 PM

Forty-four years to be precise. According to statistics released from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the number of cars stolen in the United States last year fell by some 7.2 percent, resulting in the lowest overall total since 1967.

The major reason for the drop in thefts, according to the NICB, is the proliferation of anti-theft devices, that quite simply, make newer cars harder to steal.

And the trend is being driven by insurance companies too, some like Allstate and State Farm, actually provide discounts to motorists who use anti-theft devices, such as tracking systems and engine immobilizers.

During an interview, NICB spokesman Frank Scafidi, said, ”technology both on the manufacturing end and what comes out of the automakers is a lot better than it was. Even on a baseline (entry-level) vehicle today, it’s hard to steal than it was in 2000.”

Another technique attributed to the fall in car crime are so called ‘Bait Programs,’ whereby police departments leave cars unlocked with the keys in the ignition, in the hope of attracting would-be thieves. In the Dallas area, car thefts declined by some 14.5 percent in 2010 as a result of such programs.

However, although overall statistics maybe down, some regions of the country are still leading the way when it comes to vehicle thefts. California, in particular, boasts some of the highest rates of car crime, particularly the Fresno, Central Valley area, which boasts 7,559 thefts, or 812 per 100,000 people.

Tackling it also remains a problem because, as Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer says, ”individuals we arrest for the crime of auto theft are being booked into jail and released, generally the same day. “It is not uncommon for us to arrest the same person for auto theft multiple times in one week.”

Nevertheless, even though overall car thefts are down, motorists still need to take precautions to ensure their vehicle doesn’t end up stolen.

The simplest, the easiest and the most cost-effective is really just to lock the thing,” Scafidi said. “I know that sounds kind of elementary, but there are lots of vehicles that are stolen every year because people make it easy on the thief.”

[Source: Bloomberg]