Theft-Deterring Tech While it's often assumed that crime rises as the economy worsens, that isn't necessarily the case with auto theft.
"Losing one's job doesn't I think turn most people into overnight felons," Scafidi says. "Can we show that one's own financial situation has a bearing on some crimes? Absolutely. But a sweeping statement like that is not supported by the evidence."
All told, 71% of the 366 MSAs measured (and six on our list) reported fewer car thefts in 2010 than in 2009. Improved law-enforcement practices and tougher legislation have a lot to do with it. But the cars themselves are another big reason for the decline. In Pictures: The 10 Worst Cities For Auto Theft
"Cars are just getting harder to steal," Miller says. That's thanks to immobilizer chips in car keys, advanced theft-deterrent systems and positioning technologies like Ford's Sync and GM's OnStar service--they work well to track and recover stolen vehicles quickly.
But the flip side of that improvement is an increased rate of a pettier crime: "We are seeing increases in theft of components," Miller says.
Car tires and rims have strong resale values on the black market, and catalytic converters are hot items thanks to high prices for the precious metals they contain. Airbags can fetch $200 on the black market, according to the Insurance Information Institute; airbag theft costs more than $50 million each year for insurers and vehicle owners.
All told, auto theft costs consumers and insurance companies more than $8 billion every year, according to FBI statistics. And of the more than 1 million vehicles stolen annually, fewer than 60% of them are recovered.
It's enough to make you rethink buying that new ride.
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