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Grand theft auto: The real hot wheels

Looking at top ten most stolen cars in U.S. and Canada according to national insurance boards

Published August 27, 2012

Older model cars and trucks rule the top ten “hot wheels” lists on both sides of the border.

While the Toyota Venza is No. 1 on the Canadian car theft shopping list, Hondas continue to be the most stolen cars in the U.S.

Due to its wide-ranging popularity among motorists and thieves alike, the 1994 Honda Accord has again, for the fourth year in a row, been cited as the most frequently stolen car in the U.S. in 2011.

The 1998 Honda Civic ranks second on the hot car list south of the border, according to the list compiled by the U.S. National Insurance Crime Bureau and released last week.

Meanwhile, the Insurance Bureau of Canada lists the 2009 Toyota Venza five-door as the No. 1 car targeted by thieves here with two Honda Civic 2-door SiR’s (the 1999 and 2000 models) in second and third place spots on the top 10 most stolen cars last year.

The same Civics held the top two positions on the Canadian list in 2010. Those particular models are also the most popular used cars among North American consumers. They also lack immobilizers or anti-theft components which many newer models have.

But why is the 2009 Toyota Venza so popular with thieves in Canada, even though it is equipped with anti-theft devices?

“It probably made it to the top 10 list because it is in such great demand. It is a good-looking vehicle and has a lot of room for cargo,” said Rick Dubin, IBC’s vice-president of investigative services.

“The 2009 was the first year it came on the market and what makes it so desirable is that it is a combination of the Camry and the Highlander. It does have an electric demobilizer, but unfortunately people still leave their vehicles running and unattended, which is how 20 per cent of all vehicle thefts occur.

“Organized crime targets specific vehicles. They have a shopping list and they are either going to be exported to West Africa, the Middle East or Eastern Europe, where they sell for as much as three times the price, especially all-wheel-drive vehicles due to the rough terrain there. Or they will be re-identified (by altering an auto’s vehicle identification number) and sold locally to unsuspecting consumers,” Dubin added.

He said certain high-end vehicles like the 2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT 4-door AWD, No. 5 on Canada’s list, are extremely desirable for car thieves, as are all-wheel-drive cars and trucks.

As both Canadian and U.S. lists show, thieves steal cars easily because older cars don’t have anti-theft devices. Even theft- deterrent technology, however, can be overcome by savvy criminals.

“While overall thefts continue to decline, we are seeing a trend toward increases in the thefts of late model vehicles — ones that are theoretically harder to steal due to sophisticated key-code technology,” Joe Wehrle, NICB president and CEO, told U.S. news outlets recently.

“Today’s vehicle thieves are typically professional criminals who have figured out how to get the key code for a specific vehicle, have a replacement key made and steal the vehicle within a matter of days. We are aware of nearly 300 thefts that took place in the first three months of this year in which we believe replacement keys using illegally obtained key codes were used to steal the vehicle. We are working closely with our member companies, law enforcement and the vehicle manufacturers to track these illegal key code transactions and stop the thefts or recover the stolen vehicles before they can be resold here or shipped out of the country to be sold overseas,” Wehrle added.

Vehicle thefts in both countries are declining thanks to security components in new models, but fewer are recovered as thieves unload re-identified autos and parts on unsuspecting consumers.

“The good news is that statistics show that in 2010, the number of stolen vehicles in Canada — approximately 93,000 — was down 15 per cent from 2009,” Dubin said. “The bad news is that recovery rates for stolen vehicles are continuing to decline, so we all have to work together to be vigilant.”

Both the Canadian and U.S. insurance bureaus stress car owners must protect their investment. Here are their suggestions to do it:

Even when making a brief stop, always remove your keys from the ignition, lock doors and close windows and park in well-lit areas.

Install a visible or audible warning device alerting thieves your vehicle is protected.

Anti-theft devices include audible alarms, steering column collars and locks, brake-pedal and wheel locks and tire deflators.

Use of theft deterrent decals, identification markers in or on vehicles, window etching and micro-dot marking can turn away thieves.

Immobilizing devices offer a layer of protection preventing thieves from bypassing ignitions to hotwire a vehicle. Computer chip-equipped ignition keys, electronic cutoffs and fuel disablers make cars very difficult to steal.

Tracking devices emit signals to police or monitoring stations when a vehicle is stolen and they are effective in the recovery of stolen vehicles. GPS and wireless technology alerts the owner when a car is moved and it can be tracked on computers and smartphones.

The top 10 most frequently stolen vehicles in Canada in 2011 were:

2009 Toyota Venza 5-door

1999 Honda Civic SiR 2-door

2000 Honda Civic SiR 2-door

2006 Ford F350 Pickup Truck 4WD

2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT 4-door AWD

2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer SS 4-door 4WD

2007 Ford F350 Pickup Truck 4WD

2001 Pontiac Aztek 4-door AWD

1998 Acura Integra 2-door

1999 Acura Integra 2-door

The top 10 stolen vehicles on the 2011 U.S. “hot wheel” list were:

1994 Honda Accord

1998 Honda Civic

2006 Ford F-Series Pickup

1991 Toyota Camry

2000 Dodge Caravan

1994 Acura Integra

1999 Chevrolet Silverado Pickup

2004 Dodge Ram Pickup

2002 Ford Explorer

1994 Nissan Sentra

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