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Smarter driver: Why car theft is on the decline: CNET On Cars

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CNET On Cars: Smarter driver: Why car theft is on the decline

2:19 /

Brian Cooley explains why car theft is waning, and the technologies causing the decline.

[MUSIC] We all know the sound, we all hate the sound, but believe it or not, you may be hearing it a lot less these days. That's because auto theft has been on a 20 year run down. And it's been way down. [MUSIC] In the U.S., the auto theft rate per 100,000 persons, has been coming down since 1993. There was a plateau in the mid 2000s, then we kept our erosion going. And the total number of thefts has roughly halved since 20 years ago. In the U.K. vehicle theft is down from 600,000 a year in 91, to just over 100,000 cars stolen in 2011, a dramatic drop. And overall, across the G7 countries, auto theft, way off. So what's going on here. Well, first and foremost, technology. Crooks aren't getting any nicer, and times aren't getting any easier, but it's a lot harder to get in a car and drive it off, or you can dismantle it, than it used to be. Technology makes that rather challenging now, the top cars that do get stolen tend to have two things in common. One, they're popular models now. And they've been popular models for awhile. Cars that are out there that represent lots of existing cars on the road that need repair parts, are what feed so much theft. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the top five stolen cars in 2012, were the Honda Accord, the Honda Civic, the Ford pickups, the Chevy pickups, and the Toyota Camry. Combine with that the fact that we are driving the oldest fleet ever in the U.S., we're at about 11.4 years right now, is the average age, of a private vehicle on the U.S. roads. R L Polk, I don't think has ever seen it that high. Partly because of the recession. That creates a huge base of used cars out there, for which either unscrupulous repair shops or unknowing parties, are buying up stolen parts. The other thing that stolen cars tend to have in common, is being unlocked with the keys left in them. Yep, believe it or not. That's about 40 or 50% of all stolen car reports out there. So it pays to double check that you at least have your keys with you, if not your car locked, and the windows up. [MUSIC]

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