Albuquerque Becomes America's No. 1 "Hotspot" As Car Thefts Soar

With vehicle thefts believed to have risen last year at the fastest pace in more than a decade, Albuquerque, New Mexico rose from the number-two spot to claim the title of car-theft capital of the US, according to the National Insurance Crime Board's annual "HotSpots" report

As Bloomberg noted, Albuquerque unseated Modesto, Calif., the number-one seed from 2015, which fell to the No. 4 spot last year. Car thefts are believed to have risen 6.6% in 2016 - the largest annual increae in at least a decade, according to preliminary figures from the FBI's uniform crime report. However, despite the increase, theft totals remain well below peaks seen in the early 1990s. The historic peak year for vehicle theft was 1991, with 1,661,738 reported thefts. In 2015, the total was 707,758. That is a 57.4 percent reduction since 1991.

The Albuquerque metropolitan statistical area logged 10,011 vehicle thefts last year, for a rate of 1,114 thefts per 100,000 residents – the highest in the country. Pueblo, Colo came in second, with 899 thefts per 100,000, even though it only recorded 1,325 vehicle thefts in 2016.

The NICB published an interactive map with its report that breaks down the data by state.

New to the top 10 this year are the metro areas of Anchorage, Alaska (No. 6) and Billings, Mont. (No. 10). As a population-based survey, an area with a much smaller population and a moderate number of thefts can—and often does—have a higher theft rate than an area with a much more significant vehicle theft problem and a larger population to absorb it.

The rate would be even lower if more people followed simple security practices like not leaving keys in an unlocked car.

For the years 2013 through 2015, a total of 147,434 vehicles were reported stolen with the keys left in them—57,096 in 2015 alone. With the debut of “smart keys” in 1997 and all of the improved anti-theft technology since, it is worthless if drivers continue to leave their keys in the car or leave their vehicles running, unattended, while they make a quick stop at a convenience store.