Motor Vehicle Theft

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The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program defines motor vehicle theft as the theft or attempted theft of a motor vehicle. The offense includes the stealing of automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles, snowmobiles, etc. The taking of a motor vehicle for temporary use by persons having lawful access is excluded from this definition.

In 2004, there were an estimated 1,237,114 motor vehicle thefts in the Nation. Two-, 5-, and 10-year trend data showed considerable volatility: the number of motor vehicles estimated to have been stolen in 2004 decreased 1.9 percent from the 2003 estimate, increased 6.6 percent from the 2000 estimate, and decreased 16.0 percent from the 1995 estimate.

This volatility in trend data was also apparent in the estimations for rates. With 2004 as the base year, the rate of motor vehicle thefts was estimated at 421.3 motor vehicles stolen per 100,000 inhabitants. Changes at the 2-, 5-, and 10-year points showed that this 2004 rate decreased 2.9 percent from the 2003 estimate, increased 2.2 percent from the 2000 estimate, and decreased 24.5 percent from the 1995 estimate. In order to analyze crime by geographical area, the UCR Program divides the United States into four regions: the Northeast, the Midwest, the South, and the West. The following paragraphs furnish a regional overview of motor vehicle theft.

The Northeast Region accounted for an estimated 18.6 percent of the Nation's population in 2004 and 11.6 percent of its motor vehicle thefts. An estimated 143,253 motor vehicle thefts occurred in the Northeastern states in 2004. This figure represented a 9.7-percent decrease compared with the previous year's estimate, and it was the largest decline among the regions. Estimated at a rate of 262.5 motor vehicle thefts per 100,000 inhabitants, the 2004 figure decreased 9.9 percent from the 2003 rate.

An estimated 22.4 percent of the country's population resided in the Midwestern states in 2004, and 18.1 percent of the Nation's motor vehicle thefts occurred in this region. The Midwest had an estimated 224,517 motor vehicle thefts in 2004. This number represented a 4.4-percent decrease in the previous year's volume. The rate estimated at 341.6 motor vehicles stolen per 100,000 inhabitants, decreased 4.8 percent from the 2003 number.

The Nation's most populous region is the South, where an estimated 36.1 percent of the U.S. population resided in 2004. This region accounted for over one-third (34.1 percent) of the Nation's motor vehicle thefts. The estimated 421,414 motor vehicle thefts in the South decreased 2.9 percent from the 2003 estimate. It is estimated that motor vehicles in the South were stolen at a rate of 397.8 offenses per 100,000 population. The 2004 rate decreased 4.2 percent when compared with the 2003 rate.

With approximately 23.0 percent of the U.S. population, the Western states accounted for 36.2 percent of all motor vehicle thefts in the Nation in 2004. By volume, the largest number of motor vehicle thefts, an estimated 447,930, occurred in this region. The only region to show an increase, the estimated number of motor vehicle thefts went up 3.2 percent from last year's number. Also on the rise from the 2003 number was the rate, estimated at 664.5 offenses per 100,000, an increase of 1.7 percent.

The UCR Program aggregates data by three community types: Metropolitan Statistical Areas, cities outside metropolitan areas, and non-metropolitan counties. MSAs are areas that include a principal city or urbanized area with at least 50,000 inhabitants and the county that contains the principal city and other adjacent counties that have as defined by the Office of Management and Budget, a high degree of economic and social integration.

The vast majority (82.9 percent) of the U.S. population resided in MSAs during 2004, where approximately 93.5 percent of motor vehicle thefts occurred. For 2004, the UCR Program estimated an overall rate of 475.7 motor vehicles stolen per...
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