Oregon Car Thefts Increasing, and Keep Insurance Rates High

While the state as a whole saw a general—if minor—decline in car thefts in 2011, major metropolitan areas and Portland in particular saw a dramatic surge in the number of stolen cars over the past 12 months, according to a new report just released by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

The NICB 2011 figures, referred to as their “Hot Spots Report” revealed some very interesting, and in some cases worrying, figures regarding vehicle thefts in Oregon. For example:

  • Portland moved from the 77th worst city in the country for car thefts up 12 spots to number 65.
  • In all, 6,773 cars were stolen in Portland in 2011.
  • That figure means that more than three out of every four (76%) vehicle thefts in the entire state took place in Portland. The figure for all of Oregon was 8,896 vehicles stolen.
  • The rate of car thefts in Portland ranks the city as the second worst in the entire Northwest region.
  • In Corvallis alone, 78 cars were stolen in 2011, an increase of a shocking 47 percent compared to the 2010 total.

The one bit of good news, perhaps, is that thefts of vehicles in the rest of the state meant an overall decline of 2.97 percent in Oregon car thefts compared to 2010. While this number offers a bare glimmer of good news, it’s certainly not enough to offset the many millions of additional dollars Oregon drivers are paying in insurance premiums to cover the cost of vehicle thefts.

Of course, the problem isn’t restricted to the state of Oregon. Nationwide, the cost to replace stolen vehicles or to repair those that are recovered and are worth getting fixed up ran to $5.2 billion in 2009, according to FBI statistics. Other FBI figures from 2009 (the latest year for which these statistics are available) include:

  • Auto theft in Oregon alone cost more than $59 million in 2009.
  • Vehicle theft was the number one property crime in Oregon, and the rest of the U.S., in 2009.
  • The average value of vehicles stolen in 2009 was $6,505.

Oregon’s Hot Spots for Car Theft

The NICB report gave an exact breakdown of the places in Oregon where you’re most likely to return to where you last parked your car, only to find it’s not there anymore. The six Oregon cities that saw the greatest number of vehicle thefts per head of population, in order, are:

  1. Portland major metropolitan area. With 6,773 vehicles stolen, that represents a rate of 299.35 car thefts for every 100,000 residents of the city, using U.S. census data.
  2. Eugene-Springfield. The 912 vehicles taken means there were 258.05 thefts for every 100,000 residents.
  3. Salem: 734 thefts or 185.89 for every 100,000 residents.
  4. Medford: 253 thefts equals 123.52 per 100,000 residents.
  5. Bend: 146 thefts, or 91.06 per 100,000 residents.
  6. Corvallis only came sixth, in spite of the dramatic increase in the number of car thefts. The 78 cars stolen represent 90.77 for every 100,000 residents.

Reducing Car Theft

Having your car stolen isn’t just an annoying, frustrating, infuriating and even frightening event; it’s also incredibly expensive. The NICB are advising car owners to take a number of measures to ensure that their car doesn’t become part of the 2012 statistics.

In general, if a thief is out to steal a car, and yours is protected like Fort Knox, the likelihood is they’re going to move on to another vehicle that doesn’t present such a challenge. Let’s face it, car thieves aren’t really in to hard work, or they’d get a decent job and pay for their own cars!

NICB refer to what they like to call the “four layers of protection” against vehicle theft. Following these guidelines is an almost foolproof way to make sure your car is still in your driveway tomorrow morning.

Step 1.  Use your common sense and make life difficult for the thieves by:

  • Taking your keys out of the ignition
  • Locking the car doors and making sure the windows are fully closed
  • Parking in a well-lit area
  • Keeping valuables such as cell phones, lap tops and hand bags completely out of site—take them with you if you can

Step 2. Have your vehicle fitted with a warning device, if it’s not already fitted, such as:

  • A loud alarm
  • Steering column collars and steering wheel locks (a great way to warn thieves that yours will not be an easy car to steal)
  • Theft deterrent decals
  • Micro dot marking

Step 3.  Get a vehicle immobilizer and preferably one that won’t allow thieves to bypass your ignition system and hotwire your car. Look for things like:

  • Smart keys
  • Fuse cut-offs and kill switches
  • Starter, ignition and fuel pump disablers
  • Wireless ignition authentication

Step 4. Get a tracking device fitted to your vehicle. This final layer of protection, when everything else has failed to stop the thieves, will emit a signal to the police or a monitoring station, allowing your car’s location to be tracked via satellite and computer.

Portland car accident attorneys believe that car insurance should mainly be there to cover things like medical expenses and lost income in the event of an accident. The fact that car thieves are driving up the cost of insurance for honest people is, quite simply, unacceptable.

Personal injury lawyers frequently have to negotiate with insurance companies when an innocent victim has been injured by a negligent driver, but when it comes to stolen cars, insurance companies and personal injury attorneys are “singing off the same hymn sheet” when it comes to Oregon car owners doing everything they can to prevent their vehicle from being stolen.

Protect yourself and your property, and make it really, really difficult for the thieves to drive away in your vehicle. Eventually, your reward may come in the form of reduced insurance premiums.