Ten years ago the metropolitan Phoenix area was ranked the “#1 Hot Spot” in the nation for auto thefts. But, a recent report shows the region no longer holds that dubious title and is now ranked #56.
The Arizona Automobile Theft Authority (A.A.T.A.) 2011 Annual Report indicates Arizona ranked sixth in the nation in per capita (per 100,000 population) vehicle thefts in 2010. The report also shows Arizona placed eighth nationally for the total number of stolen vehicles–down from first place in 2004. The number of stolen vehicles in the metro Phoenix area and throughout the state of Arizona dropped for the eighth straight year.
According to the A.A.T.A. report, 21,508 vehicles were reported stolen in Arizona during 2010, a decrease of 17.2 percent from the previous year. Auto thefts in Arizona resulted in a $124 million economic loss to owners and insurance companies in 2010.
The annual report shows the Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force, the A.A.T.A.’s operational division, recovered 1,455 stolen vehicles in 2010 with a value of more than $19 million. Since its formation in 1997, the task force has recovered more than 36,000 stolen vehicles in Arizona valued at nearly $400 million.
The FBI 2010 Uniform Crime Report (U.C.R.) shows a 7.4 percent drop in stolen vehicles nationwide compared to 2009. The U.C.R. claims 737, 142 vehicles were stolen in the U.S. last year costing Americans nearly $4.5 billion.
The A.A.T.A. report credits the continued drop in stolen vehicles in the metro Phoenix to a variety of factors. Improved technology, proactive law enforcement strategies and public awareness are cited as reasons for the drop in auto thefts reported in Arizona. Theft deterrent devices, car alarms and satellite recovery systems have also attributed to the recent reduction in stolen vehicles.
In 1997 the Arizona legislature established the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority in response to the state’s growing number of auto thefts. Their goal was to establish a statewide coalition between the insurance industry, law enforcement officials and other criminal justice agencies to implement vehicle theft reduction strategies.
Oversight of the A.A.T.A. is provided by a 12-member board of directors appointed by Arizona’s governor. Representatives on the board include: two sheriffs, two police chiefs, two county attorneys, two representatives from the insurance industry, two citizen members and the directors of the Arizona Department of Public Safety and Arizona Motor Vehicle Division.
In 2010 the A.A.T.A. allocated more than 65 percent of its $3.3 million annual budget to fund the Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force (A.V.T.T.F.). The statewide task force provides grant funding, manpower and other resources to local law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies to proactively combat vehicle thefts and aggressively prosecute offenders.
Programs funded by the A.A.T.A. operate in Arizona counties that account for 93 percent of the state’s auto thefts. The A.A.T.A. is financed solely through assessments of more than 400 insurance companies doing business in Arizona. The A.A.T.A. report indicates no tax dollars are used to fund the theft authority or finance the task force.
The A.A.T.A. annual report indicates that vehicles stolen in Arizona are often used to commit other crimes. Organized criminal syndicates use stolen vehicles in their human and drug smuggling efforts across the Arizona/Mexico border. Other stolen vehicles are used as “getaway cars” for local crimes of robbery and burglary. Some owners defraud their insurance company by falsely reporting their vehicle stolen and then facilitate its destruction.
A new trend identified in the A.A.T.A. report suggests unscrupulous scrap dealers are buying stolen vehicles simply for their scrap metal value. The vehicles are quickly crushed or shredded leaving little or no evidence and yielding a mere fraction of the vehicle’s actual value.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the top 10 most stolen vehicles in Arizona in 2010 were:
- 1994 Honda Accord
- 2005 Dodge Ram pickup
- 1997 Honda Civic
- 1999 Chevrolet pickup
- 1997 Ford F150 pickup
- 2003 Ford F250 pickup
- 1997 Nissan Altima
- 1994 Nissan Sentra
- 2006 Ford F350 pickup
- 2007 Toyota Camry