The Modesto area had 250 fewer car thefts last year, dropping the city and Stanislaus County from the infamous top spot in a national ranking to No. 4.
The Modesto Metropolitan Area, which includes Stanislaus and its nine cities, was the nation’s car theft capital in 2015 and has ranked first six other times going back to 2004.
Albuquerque, N.M., took over the title in 2016 with 10,011 stolen cars, or a national high of 1,114 thefts per 100,000 residents, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Pueblo, Colo., had the second-highest rate with 899 thefts per 100,000 residents. Bakersfield was third with 855 thefts per 100,000 residents.
The Modesto metro area moved to the fourth spot with 3,820 auto thefts last year, down from 4,072 in 2015. The new rate was 768 thefts per 100,000 residents.
A jump in auto thefts moved Merced to No. 7 after ranking 21st in 2015. The Merced metro area had 1,605 stolen cars last year compared to 1,132 thefts the previous year.
A Modesto law enforcement spokeswoman didn’t cite any particular reason for last year’s decline in stolen vehicles.
Heather Graves of Modesto police said the department has promoted car-theft prevention to the public, for example, by handing out steering-wheel locks to drivers who own cars that are common targets of theft. Prevention measures are also stressed by police officers who talk to residents at neighborhood watch meetings.
Residents should be compulsive about keeping doors and windows locked. In cold weather months, leaving a warming vehicle unattended in the driveway is an invitation for theft.
According to the NICB “Hot Spots” report, California has six metropolitan areas in the national Top 10. The other metro areas are Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, ranked 5th, and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward and Fresno ranked 8th and 9th, respectively.
The NICB, a nonprofit group based in Des Plaines, Ill, again reported that vehicle thefts are at historic lows in the United States. The 707,758 total thefts in 2015 was 57 percent lower than the number in 1991, when 1.66 million thefts were reported.
The Modesto area had 7,071 auto thefts in 2005, much higher than last year’s total.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16