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Auto theft falls in ABQ; Metro Area drops to second place

There's some good news for Albuquerque on the crime front, and that is that auto thefts in the four-county metro area are down in actual numbers and in the rate of thefts per 100,000 residents. According to a new report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, auto thefts in the metro area totaled 6,399 in 2019, a 10 percent drop from 2018, and a 36 percent decline from 2016 when auto thefts peaked at 10,001.

And, in 2019 the metro area, which includes Bernalillo, Sandoval, Valencia and Torrance counties, lost its title as the car theft capital of the nation, falling to second place behind Bakersfield, Calif. Last year, Bakersfield had 726 auto thefts per 100,000 residents, while the Albuquerque area had 697 per 100,000 people. Albuquerque had been the nation's auto theft leader since 2016.

According to the NICB, car theft is down nationally. "For the last two years, auto thefts nationally have fallen according to the latest 'Hot Spots' report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau," the NICB said. "The NICB report for 2019, the most recent data available, showed national thefts topped out at 794,019, down from 819,988 in 2018 and 833,740 in 2017."

The bad news is that New Mexico is the nation's top state for auto theft.

"Like the national rate, New Mexico has also witnessed consecutive years of declining thefts, however the state tops the list with a theft rate near 448 vehicles per 100,000 people," the NICB said. "Similarly, Bakersfield, California saw a decline from 2018 to 2019, however it moved from number three to the number one Metropolitan Statistical Area. California has the dubious distinction of placing 10 in the top 20 nationally."

Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said the decrease in auto thefts is due to the hard work of APD officers. Here's a news release Gallegos issued on Wednesday:

The Albuquerque Police Department continues to drive down auto thefts, as a new national ranking shows the metro area moved out of the top spot for vehicle theft rates for the first time in years. APD has worked with the state Office of Superintendent of Insurance and the New Mexico State Police to target auto theft.

“This dubious distinction has been a sore spot for Albuquerque, so we’re actually glad that we finally climbed out of the number one ranking for the first time in years,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “While it shows just how deep the hole is that we’re working to get out of, this progress is a result of the hard work of officers to cut auto theft by over a third. We clearly still have challenges but hopefully residents will continue to see the positive changes.”

Since 2016, the metro area, which includes a four-county region, was ranked worst for auto theft, according to the Hot Spot report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

The new report, based on 2019 data and released this month, shows the Albuquerque metro area with 697 thefts per 100,000 people. That represents an 11% decrease from 2018, and a 36% decrease over the past two years, according to the NICB report based on data from the National Crime Information Center.

Here's a look at the metro area's auto theft history over the years.

Here is a look at the ABQ Metro Area's rank in auto thefts among U.S. metro areas over the years.

2019: 2

2018: 1

2017: 1

2016: 1

2015: 2

2014: 12

2013: 20

2012: 20

2011: 15

2010: 20

2009: 10

2008: 8

2007: 7

And here's a look at New Mexico's four major metro areas for 2019:

City National Rank No. of Thefts Rate per 100,000 Residents

Albuquerque 2 6,399 697

Las Cruces 93 603 276

Santa Fe 121 371 247

Farmington 236 188 152

The NICB's Hot Spots report examines vehicle theft data obtained from the National Crime Information Center for each of the nation’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas. These are designated by the Office of Management and Budget and often include municipalities other than the cities for which Metropolitan Statistical Areas are named. For example, Bakersfield, CA includes the entire county of Kern, not just the city of Bakersfield.

As a population-based survey, an area with a much smaller population can have a higher theft rate than an area with a greater number of thefts. Creating a theft rate, or number of thefts per 100,000 people, enables analysts to compare large regions, such as Los Angeles, with small regions, such as Hot Springs, Arkansas.

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