Vehicle Thefts Still Fizzling, But
Western Hotbeds Persist
In its most recent Hot Spots analy- sis, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports a con- tinuing national trend of waning
The Des Plaines, Ill.-based organi-
zation will publish final numbers this
fall but has already reported that 2011
shows another consecutive year of
progress. Although four of the top 10
told The Fresno Bee that through March
of 2012, thefts were down by 37 percent.
Earlier in June, the FBI released pre-
liminary crime statistics that seems to
corroborate NICB’s findings. The FBI
points to a 3.3-percent drop in vehicle
thefts in 2011, from the 737,142 occur-
rences in 2010. Contributing to this de-
cline was the significant progress in the
Laredo, Texas. This MSA posted the na-
tion’s worst vehicle theft rate in
2009. Just two years later, Laredo
slid to the 53rd spot, reducing
the number of incidents from
1,792 in 2009 to 849 in 2011.
The Laredo Police Department credits its success to increasing
patrols, a public awareness campaign
and the installation of monitoring towers, which allow police to scan parking
lots for suspicious activity.
It is important to note that when
compiling each Hot Spots report, NICB
examines vehicle theft data obtained by
the National Crime Information Center
(NCIC) for each of the nation’s MSAs.
Each report reflects vehicle thefts on
a per capita basis. Thus, an area with a
much smaller population and a moderate number of thefts can—and often
does—have a higher theft rate than an
The FBI’s preliminary crime statistics
indicated a 3.3-percent drop in vehicle
thefts in 2011, when compared to the
737,142 reported in 2010.
metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs)
logged more thefts last year—an additional 925 collectively—the remaining
six posted fewer by comparison— 2,017
Another continuing trend is that the
majority of thefts occur west of the Mississippi. California accounts for 12 of the
20 worst cities for vehicle theft, mostly in
central California, which has struggled
with dwindling law enforcement budgets
in a down economy. However, police in
Fresno, which consistently tops the infamous list, have been successful in driving
down auto thefts this year. Fresno police
THE WILD, WILD WEST For 2011, the 10 MSAs with the highest vehicle theft rates were: 2011 2010 1 Fresno, Calif. 1 2 Modesto, Calif. 2 3 Bakersfield-Delano, Calif. 3 4 Spokane, Wash. 4 5 yakima, Wash. 10 6 San Francisco/Oakland/ Fremont, Calif. 9 7 Stockton, Calif. 7 8 Anderson, S. C. 33 9 Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif. 5 J Visalia-Porterville, Calif. 8
area with a much more significant vehicle theft problem and a larger population
to absorb it.
The chart above lists the top 10 hotbeds for auto theft, along with their respective rankings for the preceding year.
Conversely, cars may be safest in State
College, Pennsylvania, Elmira, N.Y., or
Harrisonburg, Va., which ranked near
the bottom. —By Christina Bramlet,
Featured Fraud: Downbound Thrain
One man’s gig of instigating auto accidents to file fraud- ulent insurance claims has come to a halt. Christopher John Thrain, 42, of Buckhannon,
West Virginia, was sentenced on May 21,
2012 to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of mail fraud for
his part in a staged collision racket. U.S.
District Court Chief Judge John Preston
Bailey also ordered Thrain to complete
three years of supervised release and make
restitution in the amount of $35,962.31 to
four defrauded insurance companies.
Thrain, an auto body repair specialist,
would solicit people to engage in staged
auto accidents for which he and the other
individuals would file fraudulent insur-
ance claims. The scheme began to derail
when Dairyland Insurance investiga-
tor, Steve Mocchia, and State Insurance
Fraud Unit Investigator, Brad Dumire,
noticed commonalities between claims
filed by Thrain. Specifically, insured ve-
hicles seemed to have a strong propensity
for striking Thrain’s parked vehicle.
In all, seven claims were made by
Thrain where his parked vehicle was
supposedly struck by insured vehicles.
The racket completely jumped the tracks
when seven people confessed that the
crashes in which they were involved were
staged, and that statements made to their
insurers were indeed false. All seven
claimed the scheme was Thrain’s idea.
Thrain was remanded to the custody
of the U. S Marshall pending designation to a federal institution. Next stop:
Stony Lonesome. —By Diego Padro,