Worst city for vehicle theft is fighting back and winning

Updated Dec 11, 2018

Albuquerque officials say they are starting to see the results of their renewed fight against vehicle theft with an estimated one-third reduction in thefts for the first nine months of 2018.

The drop in vehicle thefts follows two years in a row that the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) annual Hot Spots rankings had the Albuquerque metro area at the top based on vehicle thefts per 100,000 population.

The efforts of the Albuquerque community are documented in the video below produced by the NICB.

The NICB held a fraud summit in Albuquerque two years ago to bring together law enforcement and other concerned parties to address the theft issue. One of the recommendations was funding for an Auto Theft Prevention Authority to coordinate partnership among local and state law enforcement agencies and to focus on getting cases through the judicial system. That authority was created by the legislature and began operating early this year under the state Superintendent of Insurance.

The theft rate also became an issue in the mayor’s race with candidates vowing a hard line on criminals.

Law enforcement had long complained that the judicial system created a revolving door for repeat offenders with car thieves unlikely to spend much time in jail after being released on their own recognizance. Cooperating agencies worked with the Prevention Authority to identify 66 repeat offenders and to urge judges to rethink releasing them to go back to stealing more vehicles.

State and local crime fighters say more needs to be done to tighten the penalties for vehicle theft and to put thieves behind bars. They cite the area’s drug problem as one of the driving forces behind the high theft rate as drug users steal cars to commit other crimes to support their addiction. As the theft rate has declined, they say other crimes are decreasing as well.

The 2018 Hot Spots report will be compiled and released in mid-2019. Albuquerque hopes to no longer be at the number one spot when that list comes out.