Reported vehicle theft has fallen to a 20-year low even as the number of vehicles on the road has doubled, says USA Today, crediting installation of sophisticated anti-theft technology in cars and police targeteting organized car-theft rings. The FBI estimates 956,846 motor vehicles were stolen in 2008 – 315 cars for every 100,000 people. That’s less than half the rate in 1991, when a high of 1.66 million vehicles were stolen – 659 for every 100,000 people. There are more than 245 million vehicles on the road today, up from 122 million in 1989.
“It’s a much tougher job to be a car thief today,” says Russ Rade of the Highway Loss Data Institute, a research group funded by auto insurers. “The technology in new vehicles makes it much harder to make off with a car.” Car manufacturers now routinely build an ignition immobilizer – a device that blocks the engine from starting – into vehicles. The technology makes it hard to start a car without the owner’s key. Many cars include other technologies such as alarm systems and GPS tracking devices that help locate a stolen vehicle.