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The 10 Worst Places for Car Thefts

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Anyone who drives has had that feeling: You walk out to a large parking lot or garage after a few hours away, and you have no idea where your car is. You start talking to yourself, falling into a pit of self-doubt: “It was over there, right? I swear I parked in 4F. Oh no, did someone steal my car!?”

After a few minutes of panicking, perhaps also wandering around with your car remote held high over your head, desperately hitting buttons, you find it.

Then again, maybe you don’t — in some places, there’s an increased likelihood someone stole your car. Residents of some California cities have the most to worry about, according to a vehicle theft study from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The NICB analyzed 2014 vehicle theft data in more than 400 metropolitan statistical areas (metro areas determined by the Census Bureau) and divided it by the Census Bureau’s 2014 population estimates to determine the cities with the highest rate of vehicle theft per capita. Seven of the 10 metro areas with the highest car-theft rates were in California last year.

On the flip side, Pennsylvania and New York locales don’t seem to see much auto theft — 11 of the 20 metro areas with the lowest theft rates are in either of those two states.

Here are the 10 metro areas with the most vehicle thefts per capita in 2014:

10. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
Number of thefts: 10,531
Thefts per 100,000 people: 539.26
2013 ranking: 9

9. Fresno, Calif.
Number of thefts: 5,260
Thefts per 100,000 people: 544.53
2013 ranking: 2

8. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.
Number of thefts: 20,268
Thefts per 100,000 people: 552.04
2013 ranking: 13

7. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.
Number of thefts: 2,414
Thefts per 100,000 people: 559.92
2013 ranking: 8

6. Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash.
Number of thefts: 3,032
Thefts per 100,000 people: 560.49
2013 ranking: 7

5. Modesto, Calif.
Number of thefts: 3,047
Thefts per 100,000 people: 572.75
2013 ranking: 3

4. Odessa, Texas
Number of thefts: 886
Thefts per 100,000 people: 575.68
2013 ranking: 12

3. Stockton-Lodi, Calif.
Number of thefts: 4,245
Thefts per 100,000 people: 593.21
2013 ranking: 5

2. Bakersfield, Calif.
Number of thefts: 5,211
Thefts per 100,000 people: 595.82
2013 ranking: 1

1.San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.
Number of thefts: 29,093
Thefts per 100,000 people: 633.27
2013 ranking: 4

A lot things could happen when someone steals your car. If you’re lucky, someone just took it for a joy ride, and it’ll be found unharmed. Older cars are often sold for parts, and nicer cars are often shipped overseas or disguised and sold to an unsuspecting local buyer, according to a NICB news release about the data.

If you have an outstanding auto loan on a stolen car, you may still be responsible for the unpaid balance. Make sure you file a police report, and discuss your repayment options with your lender or consumer attorney. Don’t just stop paying the loan because you don’t have the car anymore, because that will damage your credit (not helpful if you’re going to need to buy another car), and you could get into serious trouble with your lender. (You can see how your car loan is impacting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

Pro tip: Don’t forget to lock your doors, if you’re not interested in dealing with the mess that is car theft. It sounds like common sense, but apparently, it isn’t. From 2012 through 2014, 126,603 vehicles were stolen with the keys left inside, according to the NICB.

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