May 23, 2007 Auto Thefts
By now it is old news that Modesto has handed its "No. 1 Auto Theft Capital" title over to the City of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is certainly good news, and for clarity purposes, it is not just Modesto that gets the ranking; it is based on the entirety of Stanislaus County and all the cities within it. The insurance industry, which is what is responsible for the ranking, uses Modesto to designate our area since more people will recognize and know its location as opposed to Stanislaus County.
The auto theft ranking is based on the number of auto thefts per 100,000 people ("per capita"), which, when done this way, allows for an accurate quantitative comparison between all cities, regardless of the population size of each.
We have moved into fifth place among the nationwide rankings, and while it is an improvement and lessens our notoriety, it is still an unenviable position to be in. In fact, having moved to fifth place is the result of only a relatively small margin (about 250 stolen cars) between us and Las Vegas. This means that an increase in 2007 auto thefts of only a few percentage points could automatically put us right back in the number one position. That we are now fifth, realistically, means very little, when there are close to 17,000 cities in the United States, and here we are near the top of the auto theft problem. It means that we must work much harder to both keep from returning to the number one spot, and to drive our position even further down on the rankings scale. It will be a difficult task for the police, the prosecutors, the courts and the citizens of Stanislaus County, but we succeed.
First, we cannot relax even one iota now that we have been removed from the spotlight of being number one. The cities that now occupy the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th places will be doing everything possible to get themselves out of the top five, making even more competition for us. To be sure, our auto theft ranking damages our image in the eyes of the rest of the country, and more important, we have all the victims with whom we must be concerned. Many people seem to feel auto theft is a victimless crime, and that insurance will take care of the losses. Frankly, I am unaware of any auto theft victim who has been made 100 percent "whole" by their insurance company. Of the thousands of cars stolen here, many are not insured for theft, leaving the victims unable to get to work, transport their kids to school, or go grocery shopping. Auto theft actually has a greater victim impact than many other property crimes. It is in everyone's best interest to bring about further auto theft reductions, as there will be fewer victims and our community's image will benefit at the same time.
The best measures for keeping your vehicles safe from theft is first, never leave the car running and unattended. Never, ever, leave the keys in the ignition or "hidden" somewhere in the interior. Always close the windows and lock the doors when away from the vehicle. Park your car in a garage when possible, and at night, keep it in a well-lighted area. Auto thieves can defeat alarms, but they are a deterrent nevertheless. I highly recommend the use of good quality alarms, even if they do occasionally become an annoyance. Suspicious persons and vehicles should be promptly reported to the police, as they might be casing the neighborhood for cars that might be easy to steal. There are any number of other measures that can be taken to discourage auto thieves and it is incumbent on each of us to do our part.
The Modesto area has made progress with the auto theft problem, but it is not enough and it is too soon to let our guard down. Let us work together, citizens and police alike, to make our community a safer place for all of us to work and live.