The IAATI Auto Theft Prevention Authority Committee has worked to assist law enforcement in identifying the following trends in motor vehicle theft:
- Vehicles are stolen and taken to “chop shops” where vehicles are stripped and component parts sold to unsuspecting buyers, or unscrupulous auto repair shops.
- Vehicles are stolen for the scrap metal value. Vehicles are stolen and delivered to scrap metal dealers where the vehicles are crushed and/or shredded simply for the nominal value of the scrap metal. The vehicles are destroyed without title or other documentation. Unscrupulous scrap dealers are conspiring with or facilitating auto thieves to make quick profit from stolen vehicles that disappear without a trace.
- Vehicles are stolen and smuggled out of the country. Stolen vehicles from the U.S. and other affluent countries end up in Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Mexico, Central and South America. The moderate recovery rate of stolen vehicles is an indicator of organized criminal activity and the exportation of stolen vehicles.
- Vehicles are stolen and the identity of the stolen vehicle is often concealed by “VIN-switching” with wrecked or salvaged vehicles, then sold to unsuspecting buyers. VIN cloning is a growing national problem. This crime is similar to ID theft where the identity (VIN #) of a properly documented vehicle is taken and used to conceal the true identity of a stolen vehicle of an identical make and model. The stolen vehicles are then titled in another state and sold to an unsuspecting victim.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) in Des Plaines, Illinois, recently released its annual “Hot Wheels” list of the most frequently stolen cars in the United States. The 1994 Honda Accord model beats all comers for thefts recorded during the 2011 calendar year, followed closely by the 1998 Honda Civic. The top vehicles stolen in the United States continue to be older Honda and Toyota models, a trend that has been consistent since 2000. Fortunately, sophisticated anti-theft systems installed in late-model cars have helped reduce auto theft in recent years.