California is the stolen vehicle capital of America. This, according to the most recent annual list of the top 10 US metropolitan areas with the most vehicle theft, compiled by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

In fact, the Golden State took 8 of the top 10 spots in the 2012 NICB report, based on data from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

Car Thefts by Metro Area

Rank Metro Area Thefts Theft Rate*
1 Modesto, CA 4,260 816.52
2 Fresno, CA 7,563 797.87
3 Bakersfield, CA 6,797 793.90
4 Stockton, CA 4,940 703.09
5 Yakima, WA 1,665 674.15
6 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 28,220 633.37
7 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 11,810 623.42
8 Vallejo-Fairfield, CA 2,615 621.50
9 Spokane, WA 3,025 568.34
10 Redding, CA 938 525.24

Source: Vehicle theft data from the National Crime Information Center
* Theft rate is the number of car thefts per 100,000 people

Do You Live in One of These Metro Areas? Make Sure You Have Insurance

Do you live in any of the metropolitan areas named in the table above? If so, car insurance is a more important consideration for you than for most drivers. This is especially true if you drive one of the 10 most stolen cars in the US.

It’s fitting that all of the metropolitan areas in the 2012 report are located in either California or Washington. Data from the FBI suggests that the Western US (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) saw a 10.6 percent increase in car thefts from 2011 to 2012.

The remaining regions of the country actually had decreases in car theft between 2011 and 2012. For example, the Northeast region reported a drop of 7.9 percent, while the Midwest and South reported reductions of 3.1 and 2.9 percent, respectively.

The places noted in the table above don’t simply refer to cities. They refer to metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), areas much larger than the cities for which they are named. (The MSA that tops the NICB’s 2012 list is a good example. It contains the entirety of California’s Stanislaus County, not just the city of Modesto.)

US Vehicle Theft Increases for the First Time in Years

Unfortunately for US car owners, the drop in vehicle theft in the Midwest, Northeast, and South didn’t make up for the spike that hit Western regions in 2012.

Granted, US vehicle theft as a whole only increased by 1.3 percent in 2012. Even that small hike represents the first increase of any amount since 2003. The number of vehicles stolen in the United States decreased each year from 2004 to 2011.

What Does All of This Mean for Auto Insurance Rates?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicle theft can affect insurance rates in several ways.

A case in point: insurers consider how likely a vehicle is to be stolen, the value of the car, and what it will cost to replace it when they set rates.

That said, companies usually look at their own loss experience with a certain car model rather than general statistics to determine prices.

Do These Things if You Want to Foil the Efforts of Car Thieves in Your Area

Drivers who want to keep their vehicles safe should keep the following in mind—especially since statistics suggest that almost half of vehicle theft is due to “driver error.”

Don’t leave your keys in or on your vehicle—Even if you plan to be away from it for just a minute. This advice is especially relevant in July and August. They are the top two months for vehicle theft, according to the NHTSA.

Also, close and lock all windows and doors when you’re not in your car—It’s no fun to get into a car that’s too hot. Still, most people would rather get into a hot car than have no car at all.

Never leave valuables in your vehicle—You’ll want to leave as little in your vehicle as possible. You never know what will catch a crook’s eye. At the very least, you shouldn’t leave any valuables visible.