Pennsylvania Warns Consumers, Insurers About Rising National Auto Theft Rates

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Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman has reminded drivers to take precautions to prevent auto theft, as a recent report shows the rate of car theft nationally rising by more than four percent in the first half of 2017. She also noted Pennsylvania law requires insurers to provide premium discounts for vehicles with passive anti-theft devices installed.

The report is compiled by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) using figures from the FBI. The preliminary report for 2017 shows the rate of car theft up 4.1 percent from 2016, continuing a three-year upward trend totaling an 11 percent increase since hitting a 23-year low in 2014. That year, 689,527 vehicles were reported stolen nationally, marking a drop of nearly 59 percent from the 1,661,738 vehicles reported stolen in 1991.
“The good news for Pennsylvania drivers is the report ranks all Pennsylvania metro areas in the bottom half nationally for car theft rate,” Altman said in a press release issued by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. “However, nearly 17,000 Pennsylvanians in areas covered by the report, which include all of Pennsylvania’s metropolitan areas, were victims of car theft in the first six months of 2017.”

The NICB report says the advent of smart keys and keyless ignition starting in 1997 has helped reduce theft. However, the report also notes these safety devices are useless if the keys are left in the vehicle, or if the vehicle is left running and unattended.

“Many of the NICB’s recommendations to reduce the likelihood of a car being stolen are just common sense, but are not always followed, such as taking your keys, locking your doors, closing your windows and parking in a well-lit area whenever possible,” Altman said in the release. “As obvious as these seem, more than 57,000 reported car thefts in 2015 – over eight percent of all reported thefts – happened to vehicles with the keys left in them.”

Warning devices can also be a deterrent to thieves, according to the NICB. These include:

Audible alarms
Steering column collars
Steering wheel/brake pedal lock
Brake locks
Wheel locks
Theft deterrent decals
Identification markers in or on vehicle

Altman said that Pennsylvania law requires insurers to offer premium reductions for motor vehicles with passive theft prevention devices. These are defined as any goods or system installed in the car that is automatically activated when the operator brings the ignition key to the off position and designed to prevent unauthorized use. The term does not include an ignition lock provided by the original car manufacturer as a standard anti-theft device.

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