Motor vehicle theft is on the rise in California, but the highest rate of theft per person is not in one of the largest cities, Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco.
The total number of auto thefts in California increased by 1.9 percentage points in 2022 to a total of 198,538, according to the California Highway Patrol’s 2022 California Vehicle Theft Facts report.
The agency’s report ranks Los Angeles County with the most auto thefts in the state — 61,770. But according to the FBI’s 2019 Crime in the United States report, the city with the most car thefts when considering population is Oakland. The 2019 FBI report is the agency’s most recent crime analysis, but local crime statistics confirm an increase in car thefts in Oakland in recent months.
Oakland, a Bay Area city with a population of about 400,000, has about 12 car thefts per 1,000 people, according to the FBI report.
In comparison, Los Angeles, with a population of 4 million, has about 4 people per 1,000 who have experienced a car theft. San Francisco, with a population of nearly 1 million, has about 5 people per 1,000 who report car theft. San Diego has a population of 1.4 million, with nearly 4 per 1,000 people experiencing car theft, according to the report.
The increase in car thefts in Oakland is largely attributed to a general increase in crime. Lobbyists for retailers and some Oakland politicians blamed Proposition 47, a 2014 law that made certain non-violent property crimes, where the value of the stolen goods does not exceed $950, to misdemeanors, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
A spike in overall crime in Oakland prompted some businesses to close their doors indefinitely Tuesday in a protest designed to pressure city officials to come up with a plan to lowering the crime rate.
During the most recent city council meeting, lawmakers passed a resolution that would task the city administrator with identifying options and analyzing existing programs to help reduce crime.
Car theft precautions
According to the Los Angeles Police Department and the California Highway Patrol, these are the best precautions to avoid becoming a victim of car theft:
- Never leave your car running unattended.
- Do not leave any keys in the car or ignition — that includes a spare key.
- Always roll up your windows and lock the car.
- Don’t leave valuables in plain sight, even if your car is locked.
- Always park in high-traffic and well-lit areas.
- Install a mechanical device that can lock the steering wheel, column or brake.
- Invest in purchasing a vehicle theft tracking/security system, especially if you have one of the most commonly stolen vehicle models.
- Do not leave personal identification documents, vehicle title or credit cards in your vehicle.
- Be aware of your surroundings before leaving your vehicle.
If your vehicle is stolen, both agencies advise that you immediately report the stolen vehicle to your local police department.