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A car with one of its windows broken

Motor vehicle theft (also known as a car theft and, in the United States, grand theft auto) is the criminal act of stealing or attempting to steal a motor vehicle. Nationwide in the United States in 2020, there were 810,400 vehicles reported stolen, up from 724,872 in 2019.[1] Property losses due to motor vehicle theft in 2020 were estimated at $7.4 billion. There were 505,100 car thefts in the EU in 2019, a 43% decrease from 2008.[2]

Methods

Shattered car window glass where a parked car was stolen

Some methods used by criminals to steal motor vehicles:

Auto-theft tools and paraphernalia

Vehicles most frequently stolen

A Ford Explorer with a smashed window

The makes and models of vehicles most frequently stolen vary by several factors, including region and ease of theft. In particular, the security systems in older vehicles may not be up to the same standard as current vehicles, and thieves also have longer to learn their weaknesses.[9] Scrap metal and spare part prices may also influence thieves to prefer older vehicles.[10]

In Bangkok, Thailand, the most frequently stolen vehicles are Toyota cars, Toyota Hilux and Isuzu D-Max pickups.[11][12]

In Malaysia, Proton models are the most frequently stolen vehicles, with the Proton Wira being the highest, followed by the Proton Waja and the Proton Perdana.

In Indonesia, locally-produced MPVs such as Toyota Avanza, Daihatsu Xenia and Suzuki Ertiga are the most commonly stolen vehicles.[13]

In the United Kingdom, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class was the most stolen car in 2018, followed by the BMW X5. Police said the growing number of vehicles featuring keyless entry technology was a contributing factor to a rising number of stolen vehicles.[14]

In the United States and Australia, a design flaw allowing USB cables to substitute for car keys led to sharp increases in the thefts of affected Kia and Hyundai vehicles in 2022.[15] The Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger are listed as the most stolen vehicles in the United States (especially Hellcat powered).[16] [17] [18] [19] [20][21]

Prevention

See also: Bait car

There are various methods of prevention to reduce the likelihood of a vehicle getting stolen. These include physical barriers, which make the effort of stealing the vehicle more difficult. Some of these include:

Recovery of stolen vehicles

Abandoned vehicle left in deep snow after a joyride in Edmonton, Alberta

Recovery rates for stolen vehicles vary, depending on the effort a jurisdiction's police department puts into recovery, and devices a vehicle has installed to assist in the process.

Police departments use various methods of recovering stolen vehicles, such as random checks of vehicles that come in front of a patrol unit, checks of all vehicles parked along a street or within a parking lot using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) or keeping a watchlist of all the vehicles reported stolen by their owners. Police departments also receive tips on the location of stolen vehicles through StolenCar.com[22] or isitnicked.com[23] in the United Kingdom.

In the UK, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) provides information on the registration of vehicles to certain companies for consumer protection and anti-fraud purposes. The information may be added by companies with details from the police, finance and insurance companies. Such companies include Carfax[24] in the US, AutoCheck[25] and CarCheck[26] in the United Kingdom, Gapless[27] in Germany and Cartell in Ireland, VinCheckFree[28] Worldwide which then provide online car check services for the public and motor trade.

Vehicle tracking systems, such as LoJack, automatic vehicle location, or OnStar, may enable the location of the vehicle to be tracked by local law enforcement or a private company. Other security devices such as microdot identification allow individual parts of a vehicle to also be identified and potentially returned.

Statistics

Motor vehicle thefts, by country

Criminologist Frank E. Hagan wrote that, "Probably the most important factor in the rate of motor vehicle theft is the number of motor vehicles per capita in the country."[29] Using data supplied by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,[30] the estimated worldwide auto-theft rate is 85.3 per 100,000 residents. However, data is not available for all countries, and this crime rate reflects only the most recent year (2018) of reported data. For the 2,302,190,898 people these countries represent, there were a total 1,963,007 cars stolen. New Zealand has the highest auto-theft rate for any fairly large country in the world, at 1172.0 per 100,000 residents in 2018. However Bermuda in its most recent year of reported auto-thefts (2016), reported a rate of 1215.3 per 100,000 people. But the population of Bermuda (63,360) is smaller than many cities in countries such as the US and Canada. Some cities have higher rates than Bermuda, such as Richmond, California, which had an auto-theft rate of 1,518.3 in 2018.[31]

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime notes "that when using the figures, any cross-national comparisons should be conducted with caution because of the differences that exist between the legal definitions of offenses in countries, or the different methods of offense counting and recording". Crime rates in certain neighborhoods or areas in each country may also be higher or lower than the nationwide rate. Furthermore, because the vehicle theft rates shown in the table below are "per 100,000 population"—not per 100,000 vehicles—countries with low vehicle ownership rates will appear to have lower theft rates even if the theft rate per vehicle is relatively high.

Motor vehicle thefts by country[30]
Country Motor vehicle thefts Population Rate per 100,000 population Year
Bermuda 770 63,360 1215.3 2016
New Zealand 55,588 4,743,131 1172.0 2018
Uruguay 19,265 3,449,290 558.5 2018
Malaysia 82,287 26,201,950 314.0 2006
Monaco 104 34,189 304.2 2006
Israel 20,974 7,487,095 280.1 2011
France 119,700 67,408,000 177.6 2020
Italy 141,132 60,627,290 232.8 2018
Canada 85,020 36,732,090 231.5 2017
United States of America 748,800 327,096,300 228.9 2018
Greece 23,969 10,522,240 227.8 2018
Sweden 21,803 9,971,630 218.7 2018
Maldives 890 415,592 214.2 2013
Australia 53,305 24,898,150 214.1 2018
United Kingdom (England and Wales) 120,114 59,115,809 203.2 2018
Netherlands 27,735 17,059,560 162.6 2018
Lebanon 10,059 6,261,046 160.7 2014
Iran 94,413 68,951,280 136.9 2004
Chile 24,288 18,729,170 129.7 2018
Puerto Rico 3,699 3,039,598 121.7 2018
Belgium 13,859 11,482,180 120.7 2018
Brazil 240,706 209,469,300 114.9 2018
Mexico 137,175 126,190,800 108.7 2018
Finland 5,794 5,522,585 104.9 2018
Bahrain 1,094 1,114,645 98.1 2008
Bahamas 375 385,635 97.2 2018
Portugal 9,864 10,256,190 96.2 2018
United Kingdom (Scotland) 4,950 5,438,100 91.0 2018
Switzerland 7,640 8,525,614 89.6 2018
Costa Rica 4,225 4,795,390 88.1 2014
Colombia 43,211 49,661,060 87.0 2018
Argentina 37,189 43,075,420 86.3 2015
Cyprus 989 1,170,189 84.5 2016
Ecuador 12,843 15,951,830 80.5 2014
Ireland 3,742 4,818,694 77.7 2018
United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) 1,452 1,881,641 77.2 2018
Norway 4,062 5,337,960 76.1 2018
Malta 317 439,255 72.2 2018
Austria 6,333 8,891,383 71.2 2018
Czechia 7,027 10,665,680 65.9 2018
Spain 30,182 46,692,860 64.6 2018
Germany 50,440 83,124,410 60.7 2018
Jordan 4,908 8,089,963 60.7 2012
Paraguay 4,004 6,688,746 59.9 2015
Peru 19,084 31,989,260 59.7 2018
Trinidad and Tobago 785 1,370,332 57.3 2015
Dominican Republic 5,455 10,397,740 52.5 2016
Luxembourg 293 604,244 48.5 2018
Dominica 34 71,626 47.5 2018
Brunei 169 370,262 45.6 2006
Turkey 31,013 74,651,050 41.5 2012
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 44 108,435 40.6 2012
Mauritius 504 1,251,074 40.3 2011
Barbados 106 285,798 37.1 2016
El Salvador 2,163 6,325,121 34.2 2015
Hungary 3,175 9,777,925 32.5 2015
Eswatini 307 1,026,287 29.9 2004
Russia 43,172 145,734,000 29.6 2018
Poland 10,971 37,921,580 28.9 2018
Belize 105 368,399 28.5 2016
Japan 35,959 127,763,300 28.1 2016
Lithuania 787 2,801,270 28.1 2018
North Macedonia 542 2,077,780 26.1 2014
Slovenia 542 2,077,836 26.1 2018
Antigua and Barbuda 24 96,282 24.9 2018
Bulgaria 1,740 7,051,610 24.7 2018
Slovakia 1,339 5,453,017 24.6 2018
Egypt 20,231 84,529,250 23.9 2011
Iceland 78 336,712 23.2 2018
Croatia 923 4,156,407 22.2 2018
Lesotho 437 1,990,135 22.0 2009
Panama 879 4,037,073 21.8 2016
Kazakhstan 3,785 17,572,010 21.5 2015
Jamaica 603 2,891,024 20.9 2015
Bosnia and Herzegovina 585 3,323,929 17.6 2018
Macao Special Administrative Region of China 110 631,633 17.4 2018
Guatemala 2,708 16,583,080 16.3 2016
Botswana 317 2,088,619 15.2 2014
Cape Verde 80 543,764 14.7 2018
Serbia 1,282 8,802,741 14.6 2018
Latvia 265 1,928,461 13.7 2018
Pakistan 29,126 212,228,300 13.7 2018
Mongolia 431 3,170,214 13.6 2018
Algeria 5,352 39,728,020 13.5 2015
Liechtenstein 5 37,918 13.2 2018
India 165,690 1,280,842,000 12.9 2013
Qatar 131 1,022,704 12.8 2006
Kosovo 214 1,790,841 11.9 2018
Tanzania 5,805 51,482,640 11.3 2015
Romania 2,088 19,506,110 10.7 2018
Indonesia 27,731 267,670,500 10.4 2018
Estonia 134 1,322,913 10.1 2018
Ukraine 4,278 45,792,090 9.3 2010
Albania 252 2,882,735 8.7 2018
Thailand 5,723 68,971,310 8.3 2016
Côte d'Ivoire 1,593 19,605,570 8.1 2008
Suriname 40 493,680 8.1 2004
Palestine 286 3,577,956 8.0 2005
Cameroon 1,583 23,298,380 6.8 2015
Nicaragua 388 5,824,058 6.7 2010
St. Kitts and Nevis 3 49,442 6.1 2011
Belarus 570 9,431,742 6.0 2014
Hong Kong 428 7,371,728 5.8 2018
United Arab Emirates 553 9,630,966 5.7 2018
Guyana 41 779,007 5.3 2018
South Korea 2,707 51,171,700 5.3 2018
Montenegro 31 627,803 4.9 2018
Philippines 4,924 106,651,400 4.6 2018
Yemen 1,012 22,516,460 4.5 2009
Moldova 178 4,073,407 4.4 2014
Denmark 231 5,752,131 4.0 2018
Myanmar 2,068 53,708,320 3.9 2018
Uganda 1,461 39,649,170 3.7 2016
Morocco 1,280 36,029,090 3.6 2018
Zimbabwe 444 12,379,550 3.6 2008
Kyrgyzstan 203 6,304,025 3.2 2018
Honduras 302 9,587,523 3.1 2018
Syria 532 16,945,060 3.1 2018
Sri Lanka 577 21,228,760 2.7 2018
Azerbaijan 211 9,949,537 2.1 2018
Singapore 114 5,757,503 2.0 2018
Oman 89 4,829,476 1.8 2018
Armenia 48 2,951,741 1.6 2018
Kuwait 45 2,821,041 1.6 2009
Nigeria 2,043 171,765,800 1.2 2013
Georgia 43 4,166,860 1.0 2007
Kenya 457 51,392,570 0.9 2018
Bangladesh 1,061 140,921,200 0.8 2006
Bolivia 94 11,353,140 0.8 2018
Tajikistan 48 7,697,507 0.6 2011
Guinea 49 9,738,796 0.5 2008
Guinea-Bissau 5 1,692,433 0.3 2014
Madagascar 20 24,234,080 0.1 2015
Nepal 17 26,066,690 0.1 2006
Andorra 0 79,213 0.0 2014
Grenada 0 109,603 0.0 2015
Holy See 0 790 0.0 2015
São Tomé and Príncipe 0 184,521 0.0 2011
Senegal 7 14,993,510 0.0 2016
Turkmenistan 2 4,810,114 0.0 2006

See also

References

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