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Auto Thefts Facts 

Did you know….?

  • According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a car is stolen every 27 seconds in the U.S.

  • The cost of vehicle theft to consumers nationwide (for insurance premiums, repair costs and new car replacements) is $7.8 billion annually.

  • Automobiles comprised 74.5 percent of all motor vehicle theft offenses; trucks and buses accounted for 18.7 percent of the vehicle thefts, and the remainder included other types of vehicles.

  • According to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), Friday and Saturday are the two days with the highest frequency of motor vehicle thefts.

  • Based on NIBRS data, 57.1 percent of stolen motor vehicles are recovered in the first day and 79.4 percent are recovered during the first six days, indicating that the first few days after the theft are critical in recovering a stolen vehicle.

  • In Florida, a vehicle was stolen approximately every 6 minutes in 2000, and over 240 were stolen per day.

  • More than 83 percent of all offenses were reported in Florida’s 10 most populous counties. Dade, Hillsborough, and Broward Counties accounted for half of all thefts.

  • The average number of vehicles stolen in Florida in 2000 per county is 1,312.

Auto Theft Prevention

There are no foolproof methods to prevent your car from being stolen. There are some common sense tips listed below that may make your car less likely to be stolen or that may slow an auto thief down.

  1. Never leave your car running while unattended, even for a couple of minutes.

  2. Always lock your car and take your keys with you.

  3. Close all windows tightly.

  4. Do not leave an extra set of keys in a “hiding” place – thieves check many of the places you would hide your keys.

  5. Whenever possible, park your car in a locked garage or well lighted area.

  6. When selling a car, never let a stranger take your car to test-drive it.

  7. Report any suspicious behavior to local Law Enforcement.

  8. Drop your business card or return address labels down into window channels in door interiors – this may be the only way to identify your vehicle if it is stolen.

  9. Florida law requires that you have your license and registration with you in your vehicle – make a copy for you and your spouse (or other drivers) and keep it in your wallet or purse instead of your glove box. Some people who have their cars stolen also become victims of residential burglaries.

Vehicle Theft Hot Spots

The largest percentages of vehicles, roughly 57 %, were stolen from the driveways of single-family dwellings, apartment complex parking lots or apartment parking garages. Of the remaining 43%, the majority (23%) were stolen from parking lots or parking garages: 1% from convenience or specialty stores; 1% from hotels or motels; 1% commercial/industrial areas and construction sites; 1% each from schools, universities or nightclubs; and 14% from other structures.

Who Steals Cars?

There are four main types of car thieves:

  • CRIMINALS: Burglars, robbers or drug dealers seeking temporary transportation that police cannot trace to the criminals.

  • DRUG USERS: Thieves who make quick cash for drugs by selling the car or parts from it.

  • PROFESSIONALS: Thieves who sell stolen car parts to body shops, smuggle popular cars out of the state or change identification numbers and sell the cars within the state.

  • JOY RIDERS: Teenagers and younger children seeking thrills or looking for transportation for a night on the town.

What to Do If Your Car is Stolen

Don’t Panic. Call your local law enforcement and your insurance agent. It’s a good idea to know what types of questions you should be able to answer for the police and insurance agents. You may want to write down this information and keep it in a safe place, not inside your vehicle.

Here is a form you can print out, fill in your vehicle information and keep in a safe place.  (Acrobat Reader required)

Vehicle Information Form


Anti-Theft Measures

VIN Etching – a process by which the VIN is chemically etched into the glass. Auto thieves cannot sell etched parts. Auto glass is a high demand item. Etched door glass would have to be changed before a thief could sell the car.

Protective Metal Collar – A metal alloy device that deters would-be thieves from breaking the steering wheel column associated with certain types of vehicles. Armed with only a screwdriver, a thief can smash the window, peel the steering column, and start the car in less than a minute.

Kill Switches, Starter Disabler – A kill switch is a simple toggle device that shuts off the engine’s ignition system. Experts warn that a kill switch is dangerous, since the driver can accidentally engage it. An improperly installed kill switch could damage the electrical system on newer model cars and possibly void the warranty. A recommended alternative is a system that disables the starter when the engine is turned off. A starter disabler can be activated by a key, code, or a pressure pad. Another device, a fuel cutoff, stalls the engine after the thief drives away.

Anti-Theft Systems – Starting at less than $100 and going higher as options are added, anti-theft systems typically include siren alarms, starter disablers, motion sensors, remote control activation, panic buttons, and shock detectors on doors, windows, or trunk lids. A beeper can alert the owner when someone trips the system.

Tracking Systems – There are two types of tracking systems: Satellite and Electronic

  • With the satellite tracking system your tracking company is notified when you report your vehicle stolen. The tracking company will contact local law enforcement with the location of your vehicle that they obtained from a signal being sent to satellites.

  • The electronic tracking system works by sending out an electronic signal. For this device to work the law enforcement agency must have the equipment to pick up the signal. If your vehicle is reported stolen and then comes within 3-7 miles of an equipped agency, an electronic signal is received that allows them to pinpoint the location of your vehicle.

Keep in mind that spending money on anti-theft devices doesn’t help if you don’t follow basic precautions – lock you doors, take your keys, and USE the anti-theft device you pay for.

Auto Theft Prevention Video

Motor Vehicle Thefts in Florida



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Motor Vehicle Thefts in Polk County



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Statewide Arrests in 2000


1999 Arrests

2000 Arrests

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Top Ten Vehicles Stolen in the U.S.

  1. Toyota Camry
  2. Honda Accord
  3. Chevrolet C1500 Series
  4. Ford F150 Series
  5. Acura Legend
  6. Jeep Grand Cherokee
  7. Honda Civic
  8. Dodge Neon
  9. Cadillac Deville
  10. Ford Mustang

Top Ten Vehicles Stolen in Florida

  1. Honda Accord
  2. Toyota Camry
  3. Toyota Corolla
  4. Ford F150 Series
  5. Mazda Millenia
  6. Chevrolet Caprice
  7. Dodge Caravan
  8. Ford Mustang
  9. Toyota 4Runner
  10. Ford Explorer  

Top Ten Vehicles Stolen in Polk County

  1. Ford F150 Series
  2. Chevrolet Cavalier
  3. Ford Ranger Pickup
  4. Dodge Ram Pickup
  5. Chevrolet Pickup Truck
  6. Ford Mustang
  7. Oldsmobile Cutlass
  8. Ford Explorer
  9. Pontiac Grand Am
  10. Dodge Caravan