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Kenton Brine, President
Sandi Henke, Communications Director     
NW Insurance Council    
Phone: (206) 624-3330/(800) 664-4942
Fax: (206) 624-1975

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Washington auto thefts increase; Spokane 11th-highest theft rate in the US, says NICB

  • Number of vehicles stolen in Washington up 21 percent statewide
  • Owners of vehicles stolen are on the hook without Comprehensive Insurance Coverage
  • Drivers are recommended to follow the “four layers of protection” to guard against vehicle theft

SSEATTLE, June 13, 2017 While no Washington cities ranked among the nation’s 10 worst cities for auto theft, Spokane leapt from 25th to 11th in 2016, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) recent annual Hot Spots Report.

The report also shows the number of vehicles stolen increased by 21 percent statewide in 2016, after an 8 percent decrease in 2015. Preliminary data from the FBI’s Uniform Crimes Report show that auto thefts were up across the country by 6.6 percent in 2016. The NICB compares auto thefts per 100,000 inhabitants to develop an even comparison in metropolitan areas across the country. Auto theft increased in most Washington metropolitan areas last year, which means an increase in both the number of vehicles stolen and auto theft rate per 100,000 residents.

Auto thefts in the Kennewick-Richland area had a steep 50 percent increase, with 536 vehicles stolen in 2016 compared to 356 in 2015. Spokane increased by 19 percent, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area increased by 22 percent, Longview experienced a 38 percent increase and Mt. Vernon-Anacortes increased by 40 percent. Wenatchee is the only metropolitan area with less vehicles stolen in 2016, decreasing by 12 percent.

Auto theft continues to be a widespread and costly crime, particularly if the vehicle owner does have the right insurance coverage. The NW Insurance Council encourages drivers to consider optional Comprehensive or Other than Collision Coverage. This type of policy pays - up to the limits of the policy (typically after a deductible has been paid by the policyholder) - for vehicle damage not caused by a collision with another vehicle or by depreciation and normal wear and tear, including damage from fire, hail, windstorm, auto glass breakage and even if the vehicle hits a deer. Importantly, comprehensive insurance is the only policy that will pay to help pay for a stolen car.

“Vehicle theft is a $5 billion-per year crime in the US,” said Kenton Brine, NW Insurance Council president. “Guarding against vehicle theft and making sure you are protected against the loss of your own vehicle are two ways for consumers to help reduce risks and manage insurance costs.”

Vehicle theft is the nation’s number-one property crime, costing an estimated $4.9 billion in 2015, according to the FBI.  In 2016, 37,877 vehicles were reported stolen in Washington. That’s an average of 104 stolen vehicles per day and nearly four vehicles stolen each hour.

Brine recommended drivers employ the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s “Four Layers of Protection” to guard against auto theft. “The more layers a driver can employ, the less chance his or her vehicle will be targeted by car thieves,” Brine said. The protections include common sense measures like locking your car, adding warning devices like light and sound auto alarm systems, adding an immobilizing device such as a fuse cut-off or kill switch, or using an onboard tracking device.

Here are the Washington cities with the highest theft rates and how they compare to one year ago (percentages rounded): 

  1. Spokane-Spokane Valley : 2,891 Thefts, 624.84 Theft Rate, 41% Theft Rate Change
  2. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue: 20,704 Thefts, 554.53 Theft Rate, 20% Theft Rate Change
  3. Yakima: 1,285 Thefts, 537.54 Theft Rate, 14% Theft Rate Change
  4. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro 9,634 Thefts, 436.43 Theft Rate, 34% Theft Rate Change
  5. Longview: 375 Thefts, 362.43 Theft Rate, 38% Theft Rate Change
  6. Olympia-Tumwater: 727 Thefts, 334.98 Theft Rate, 38% Theft Rate Change
  7. Mount Vernon-Anacortes: 363 Thefts, 293.5 Theft Rate, 38% Theft Rate Change
  8. Kennewick-Richland: 536 Thefts, 218.2 Theft Rate, 71% Theft Rate Change
  9. Bremerton-Silverdale: 559 Thefts, 214.89.44 Theft Rate, 20% Theft Rate Change
  10. Walla Walla : 136 Thefts 211.57 Theft Rate, 11% Theft Rate Change

*The theft rate is based on the number of thefts per 100,000 inhabitants using U.S. Census data

How to Help Stop Auto Theft & Insurance Fraud

In some cases, auto theft is a form of insurance fraud when vehicle owners arrange to have their vehicles stolen with hopes of collecting the insurance money. If you witness or have knowledge of an auto theft, you can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422) or by texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411).   

For more information about the Hot Spots Report and insurance fraud, visit National Insurance Crime Bureau and NW Insurance Council.

NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education organization funded by member insurance companies serving Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

National Insurance Crime Bureau is the nation’s leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through data analytics, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness.