Motor vehicle theft

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Vehicle with broken window.

Motor vehicle theft (sometimes referred to as grand theft auto by the media and police departments in the US) is the criminal act of stealing or attempting to steal a car. Nationwide in the US in 2005, there were an estimated 1.2 million motor vehicle thefts, or approximately 416.7 motor vehicles stolen for every 100,000 inhabitants.[1] Property losses due to motor vehicle theft in 2005 were estimated at $7.6 billion.[2] Since then the number of motor thefts nationally has declined. The most recent statistics, for 2009, show an estimated 794,616 thefts of motor vehicles nationwide, representing property losses of nearly $5.2 billion.[3]


Shattered glass marks the spot where a parked vehicle was stolen

Some methods used by criminals to steal motor vehicles include:

Commonly used tools[edit]

Vehicles most frequently stolen[edit]

Ford Explorer with smashed window.

The makes and models of vehicles most frequently stolen vary by several factors, including region and ease of theft. In particular, the security systems in older vehicles may not be up to the same standard as current vehicles, and thieves also have longer to learn their weaknesses.[7] Scrap metal and spare part prices may also influence thieves to prefer older vehicles.[8]

In Thailand, the most frequently stolen vehicles are Toyota cars, Toyota Hilux and Isuzu D-Max pickups.[9]

In Malaysia, Proton models are the most frequently stolen vehicles, with Proton Wira being the highest, followed by the Proton Waja and the Proton Perdana.[10]


There are various methods of prevention to reduce the likelihood of a vehicle getting stolen. These include physical barriers, which make the effort of stealing the vehicle more difficult. Some of these include:

Recovery of stolen vehicles[edit]

Abandoned vehicle after a joyride. Edmonton Alberta, Canada

Recovery rates for stolen vehicles vary, depending on the effort a jurisdiction's police department puts into recovery, and devices a vehicle has installed to assist in the process.

Police departments use various methods of recovering stolen vehicles, such as random checks of vehicles that come in front of a patrol unit, checks of all vehicles parked along a street or within a parking lot using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) or keeping a watchlist of all the vehicles reported stolen by their owners. Police departments also receive tips on the location of stolen vehicles through[11] or[12] in the United Kingdom.

In the UK, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) provides information on the registration of vehicles to certain companies for consumer protection and anti-fraud purposes. The information may be added to by companies with details from the police, finance and insurance companies. Such companies include CarFax[13] in the US, AutoCheck[14] and CarCheck[15] in the United Kingdom, and Cartell in Ireland, which then provide online car check services for the public and motor trade.[16]

Vehicle tracking systems, such as LoJack, Automatic vehicle location, or Onstar may enable the location of the vehicle to be tracked by local law enforcement or a private company. Other security devices such as DotGuard microdots allow individual parts of a vehicle to also be identified and potentially returned.


Motor vehicle thefts, by country[edit]

Using data supplied by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,[17] the estimated worldwide auto-theft rate is 65.8 per 100,000 residents. Before reading on, note that; (1) there is not data on every single country in the world and, (2) the crime rate reflects each of these countries most recent year of reported data. For the 4,429,167,344 people these countries represent, there were a total 2,915,575 cars stolen. Uruguay has the highest auto-theft rate for any fairly large country in the world, at 437.6 per 100,000 residents in 2012. However Bermuda in its most recent year of reported auto-thefts (2004), reported a rate of 1324.0 per 100,000 people. But the small population of Bermuda (65,000) is smaller than many cities in countries such as the USA or Canada. Some cities have higher rates then Bermuda, such as Newark, NJ which had an auto-theft rate of 1420.6 in 2012.[18]

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime notes "that when using the figures, any cross-national comparisons should be conducted with caution because of the differences that exist between the legal definitions of offences in countries, or the different methods of offence counting and recording". The last thing to note is that crime will vary by certain neighborhoods or areas in each country, so, just because a nation-wide rate is a specified rate, does not mean that everywhere in that country retains the same amount of the likelihood of a car to be stolen.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Motor Vehicle Theft". Crime in the United States 2005 Department of Justice — Federal Bureau of Investigation Release Date: September 2006. Retrieved 2009. 
  2. ^ "Property losses". Crime in the United States 2005 Department of Justice — Federal Bureau of Investigation Release Date: September 2006. Retrieved 2009. 
  3. ^ "FBI Motor Vehicle Theft". Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  4. ^ "FindLaw for Legal Professionals - Case Law, Federal and State Resources, Forms, and Code". Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  5. ^ Biham, Eli; Dunkelman, Orr; Indesteege, Sebastiaan; Keller, Nathan; Preneel, Bart (2008), How To Steal Cars — A Practical Attack on KeeLoq, Eurocrypt 2008 
  6. ^ Bono, Stephen C.; Green, Matthew; Stubblefield, Adam; Juels, Ari; Rubin, Aviel D.; Szydlo, Michael (2005), Security Analysis of a Cryptographically-Enabled RFID Device, 14th USENIX Security Symposium 
  7. ^ "Car Theft Stats" (PDF). Gold Coast City Council. Retrieved 27 Aug 2012. 
  8. ^ "Thefts of older cars driven by rise in scrap metal price". Fairfax Media. 25 Mar 2010. Retrieved 27 Aug 2012. 
  9. ^ รู้ยัง? 5 อันดับรถเสี่ยงหายมากที่สุด !! (in Thai). Matichon Online. 2014-04-28. Retrieved 2014-05-25. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  12. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  13. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  14. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  15. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  16. ^ Car check
  17. ^ a b Crime and criminal justice statistics, used table: motor vehicle theft. Retrieved May-24-2014
  18. ^ FBI Crime 2012 Retrieved May-31-2014

External links[edit]