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Spokane, Seattle Among U.S. Auto Theft Hot Spots

Kevin Mooney
Graphic based on ranking by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

In what Northwest city is your car most likely to be stolen? According to a new insurance industry report, the answer is Spokane, Washington.

Spokane County is the only Northwest location included in a list of top 10 U.S. places for car theft prevalence. The National Insurance Crime Bureau published rankings based on FBI data. Spokane moved up two spots to seventh place overall in 2013.

Yakima, which used to be the region's leading hot spot for auto theft, “dropped from fifth place last year to 19th place this year — well out of the top 10,” said Northwest Insurance Council president Karl Newman. “Our understanding is that the law enforcement folks in Yakima really have made a focus of this."

Yakima prosecutors have been diligent about seeking longer jail terms for car thieves.

Auto theft rose nearly 15 percent in the Seattle area last year, lifting the city to 13th worst nationally. Stolen cars spiked more than 23 percent in Boise and a shocking 57 percent in the Grants Pass, Oregon area, where the sheriff's department took major budget cuts.

On the flipside, Coeur d'Alene Idaho, Salem, Oregon and Portland improved in this category.

Western cities dominate the national rankings, which Newman attributes to proximity to ports and international borders.

"It is very easy for auto theft rings to ship an entire car in a container across the ocean or to break them down for parts," Newman said.

The insurance industry recommends that car owners take common sense measures to avoid becoming the next victim. Many of those measures are really simple like locking doors, keeping valuables out of sight and never leaving a car at the curb with the keys in the ignition while jumping out to complete a quick errand.

Newman, not surprisingly, also urged drivers to consider buying the optional "comprehensive" coverage to protect themselves against losses from theft.

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.