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There is nothing worse than going to the place you last parked your car and finding it gone. That has become the sad reality for many in California, where nine cities of the most recent 10 vehicle theft “Hot Spots” report are now located. It’s the first time the Golden State has held that distinction since the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) created the report dating back to 1984.

The top five metropolitan Hot Spots statistical areas were all located in the northern half of the state:

  1. Bakersfield, CA
  2. Fresno, CA
  3. Modesto, CA
  4. San Francisco Bay Area
  5. Stockton-Lodi, CA

The only non-California area in the dubious top ten was Spokane, Washington, which came in at 7.

MSAs are often larger areas than just the city, often encompassing entire counties. They are officially designated by the federal Office of Management and Budget.

The little bit of good news is that after a spike in vehicle thefts in 2012, the numbers across the country are slightly down this year. Even so, the NICB recommends everyone use these layers of anti-theft precautions:

Common Sense — The common sense approach to protection is the easiest and most cost-effective way to thwart would-be thieves. You should always:

  • Remove your keys from the ignition
  • Lock your doors /close your windows
  • Park in a well-lit area

Warning Device — The second layer of protection is a visible or audible device which alerts thieves that your vehicle is protected. Popular devices include:

  • Audible alarms
  • Steering column collars
  • Steering wheel/brake pedal lock
  • Brake locks
  • Wheel locks
  • Theft deterrent decals
  • Identification markers in or on vehicle
  • VIN etching
  • Micro dot marking

Immobilizing Device — The third layer of protection is a device which prevents thieves from bypassing your ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some electronic devices have computer chips in ignition keys. Other devices inhibit the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until a hidden switch or button is activated. Some examples are:

  • Smart keys
  • Fuse cut-offs
  • Kill switches
  • Starter, ignition, and fuel pump disablers
  • Wireless ignition authentication

Tracking Device — The final layer of protection is a tracking device which emits a signal to police or a monitoring station when the vehicle is stolen. Tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles. Some systems employ “telematics” which combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of a vehicle. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked via computer.

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