Auto Thefts Heading The Wrong Way in Virginia

Auto thefts are heading in the wrong direction in Virginia, and although the auto theft rate has fallen in Richmond City, the jurisdiction remains one of the hot localities of auto thefts in the state, cautions AAA Mid-Atlantic.

In Virginia, nearly 10,000 (9,947) vehicles were stolen last year.  That’s an increase of four percent compared to 2016 and 24% between 2014 and 2017.  While Richmond auto theft crimes have fallen by nine percent from 2016-2017, the city along with Tidewater and Northern Virginia regions top the list for car thefts in the Commonwealth.

“This time of year is a prime time for auto thefts,” said Tammy Arnette, Senior Public Affairs Specialist for AAA.  “Auto thefts are trending upward year over year in Virginia, and unfortunately, your vehicle is more likely to be stolen in the summer months than any other time of the year.”

For this reason, July has been designated “National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month” by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). More than 1,900 vehicles are stolen each day across the United States.

Yet, despite the seasonality of auto thievery, only about four out of ten Americans (38 percent) worry about their cars being stolen, according to a 2017 Gallup crime poll. Using a little common sense and readily available theft-prevention devices can minimize theft. The more layers of protection, the less likely your car will be stolen.

In 2016, more than three-quarters of a million vehicles were stolen in the United States—and nearly half of those thefts were due to driver error,” according to NHTSA. “Vehicle theft is a multi-billion-dollar crime, with the cost of stolen vehicles coming in at almost $6 billion in 2016 alone—up from $5 billion in 2015. In Virginia, auto thefts totaled $86 million last year with an average cost of $8,777 per vehicle stolen.

Virginia State Police began the Help Eliminate Auto Thefts (HEAT) program in 1992 to educate citizens and law enforcement about vehicle theft and the theft of parts. The program not only provides education about vehicle thefts and prevention, but also holds vehicle identification number (VIN) etching events in communities around the Commonwealth. VIN etching is another barrier to against potential auto theft.  Special Agent Matthew Dyke with HEAT advises, “Always lock your car doors, take your keys with you, park in well-lit and high traffic areas and never leave possessions in plain sight.”

Number of Motor Vehicle Thefts in Virginia























*Source: Virginia State Police, HEAT


Top 10 Most Stolen Vehicles in the United States

1. Honda Accord

2. Honda Civic

3. Chevrolet Silverado

4. Toyota Camry

5. Ford F-150

6. Nissan Altima

7. Toyota Corolla

8. Ford F-250

9. Ford Econoline

10. Chevrolet Impala

“Radios and wheel covers aren’t the only popular stolen vehicle parts thieves take. They want whatever sells, from the mandated labeled parts to those that aren’t,” cautions NHTSA. “Some of the most popular vehicle parts or valuable items stolen from vehicles include doors, engines, transmissions, air bags, radios, GPS units, cell phones, iPads, laptops, and purses.”

Keep the following in mind when looking at your auto insurance coverage, advises AAA Insurance: 

  • Auto theft is covered under the comprehensive section of an auto insurance policy. Theft coverage applies to the loss of the vehicle as well as parts of the car, such as air bags.
  • Comprehensive coverage, which is not mandatory, also pays for fire, vandalism, and weather-related damage, including damage from flooding and earthquakes.
  • Rates for comprehensive insurance are affected by the risk of loss, meaning the likelihood that an insured car will be stolen or damaged, and also the car’s value at the time of the loss.

AAA offers the following tips to help motorists prevent vehicle burglary and theft:

  • Always lock your vehicle with the windows closed. Even if you park your vehicle in a garage. This simple measure is added security.
  • Never leave belongings out in the open in your car as they could tempt thieves.
  • Never leave your keys in your vehicle or leave your vehicle running any time you are not in it.
  • Keep your vehicle in secure, well-lit areas. When possible, park in a locked garage. Also, consider installing a motion-activated floodlight that illuminates the place where your car is parked.
  • Use anti-theft or automatic tracking devices. If your vehicle wasn’t equipped with an alarm or hidden tracking device when purchased, have one installed.
  • Remove spare keys from vehicle. Never hide a spare ignition key in your vehicle. Remove keys from under floor mats, etc.

Although auto theft rates had been declining in recent years across the nation, car theft remains an all too common crime. As a cautionary tale, motor vehicle thefts were up 4.1 percent nationwide, from January to June of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016. That is according to preliminary estimates by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in its Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, January–June, 2017.


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