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ABQ Repeats as Auto Theft Capital of U.S.

For the second year consecutive year, the Albuquerque metropolitan area has ranked as the auto theft capital of the United States.

In 2017, the area had the most auto thefts per capita out of 382 metro areas, according to figures released Thursday by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Last year, the four-county metro area had 1,096.82 auto thefts per 100,000 residents. That far outpaced the second place metro area of Anchorage, Alaska, which had 816.69 thefts per 100,000 people.

In 2017, 9,898 motor vehicles were stolen in the Albuquerque metro area. That was slightly less than the 10,011 vehicles that were stolen in 2016. In 2016, the area also ranked as the nation's auto theft capital with a rate of 1,114 thefts per 100,000 people.

In 2016 and 2017, the final years of former Mayor Richard Berry's administration, auto, property and violent crime rates skyrocketed in Albuquerque. The city's police department has been chronically understaffed for years.

Current Mayor Tim Keller and Police Chief Michael Geier have said that public safety is their biggest priority, and they have vowed to reduce auto theft in the city.

Nationwide though, overall vehicle theft is down dramatically from what it was in the early 1990s, according to the NICB. The historic peak year for vehicle theft was 1991, with 1,661,738 reported thefts. In 2016, the total was 765,484. That is a 54 percent reduction since 1991.

In New Mexico, vehicle thefts peaked at 12,407 in 1997. In 2016, there were 11,743 vehicle thefts in the state.

“While the final result for 2017 is expected to be higher than 2016’s number (although the rate of increase is decreasing), the vehicle theft environment across the country has improved significantly since the 1990s,” the NICB said.

But it could be much better if vehicle owners just followed simple security advice, The NICB added.

“In a report published in October, 2016, NICB found that for the years 2013 through 2015, a total of 147,434 vehicles were reported stolen with the keys left in them—57,096 in 2015 alone,” the NICB said. “With the debut of “smart keys” in 1997 and all of the improved anti-theft technology since, it is worthless if drivers continue to leave their keys in the car or leave their vehicles running, unattended, while they make a quick stop at a convenience store.

“Vehicle manufacturers, law enforcement and legislatures have been responsive to the crime of vehicle theft over the years and the results are evident.”

But while auto theft has been decreasing nationwide, it has skyrocketed in New Mexico in recent years. Here's a look at New Mexico's auto theft numbers over the years:

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