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U.S. Car Thefts Decline for 8th Year on Security Gear

June 19 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. auto thefts probably fell for an eighth straight year in 2011 as security features made cars more difficult to steal, an insurance-industry group said.

Thefts dropped 3.3 percent last year from 737,142 in 2010, according to preliminary data released today by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Thefts fell 7.2 percent in 2010 to the lowest levels since 1967, the NICB said, citing data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“Manufacturers are providing much better theft protection today, and the higher you move up the food chain with vehicles, theft protection is enhanced,” Frank Scafidi, spokesman for the Des Plaines, Illinois-based NICB, said in an e-mail. “Technology is the game changer. What’s available on an entry-level model is one thing, but what comes as standard equipment on a high-end luxury car is quite another.”

Laredo, Texas, reduced thefts by 53 percent in two years, according to the NICB. Laredo Police Sgt. Eduardo Garcia of the auto-theft task force said the district attorney has helped identify repeat offenders who are responsible for 90 percent of vehicle thefts in the area.

“When we had a habitual offender coming in, the DA was able to pinpoint car thieves and put them in jail for a while,” Garcia said yesterday in a phone interview.

The New York City area, including northern New Jersey and Long Island, had 29,135 thefts last year, or about 153 per 100,000 people.

The State College, Pennsylvania, region reported the fewest thefts per capita of any U.S. metropolitan region for the 12th straight year, with 47 incidents. The region with the most thefts per capita was Fresno, California. It had about 808 cars stolen per 100,000 people.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Norton in New York at snorton7@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Kraut at dkraut2@bloomberg.net

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