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Western Cities Top Rankings Of Auto Theft Hot Spots

Graphic by Kevin Mooney/Rankings from NICB
The top auto theft hot spots in the United States and the Northwest

In what Northwest city is your car most likely to be stolen? According to a new insurance industry report, the answer is Spokane, Washington.

Spokane County is the only Northwest place ranked in the national top ten for car theft prevalence. The National Insurance Crime Bureau published rankings based on FBI data. Spokane moved up two spots to seventh place overall in 2013.

Yakima used to be the region's leading hot spot for auto theft. But Northwest Insurance Council president Karl Newman said, "They dropped from fifth place last year to 19th place this year, well out of the top ten. Our understanding is that the law enforcement folks in Yakima really have made a focus of this."

Yakima prosecutors have been diligent about going for longer jail terms for car thieves.

Auto theft rose nearly 15 percent in the Seattle area last year, lifting the city to 13th worst nationally. Stolen cars spiked more than 23 percent in Boise and a shocking 57 percent in the Grants Pass, Oregon, area, where the sheriff's department took major budget cuts.

On the flip side, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Salem, Oregon, and Portland improved in this category.

Western cities dominate the national rankings, which Newman attributes to proximity to ports and international borders.

"It is very easy for auto theft rings to ship an entire car in a container across the ocean or to break them down for parts," Newman explained.

The insurance industry recommends that car owners take common sense measures to avoid becoming the next victim. Many of those measures are really simple like locking doors, keeping valuables out of sight and never leaving a car at the curb with the keys in the ignition while jumping out to complete a quick errand.

Newman, not surprisingly, also urged drivers to consider buying the optional "comprehensive" coverage to protect themselves against losses from theft.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.