Good news: If you live in the Washington region, odds are your car won’t be stolen.
In fact, there’s never been a better time for your car not to be stolen if you live in or around Washington.
Fewer cars were stolen in Maryland last year than at any time since 1975. (Back in the Gerald Ford era they used to keep records on something called “paper,” and after computers came into vogue, that information seems to have disappear, so there’s no way of knowing whether Maryland’s 2013 low was an all-time low.)
Virginia had the lowest stolen car rates in almost 40 years, and car theft has dropped 60 percent in the District in the past decade.
Best guess is that cars are harder to steal and easier to find.
John B. Townsend II of AAA attributes the decline to “increased public awareness, warp-speed advances in factory-installed and after-market anti-theft-prevention technology.”
That’s been helped by better police techniques, like the use of patrol-car-mounted cameras, which scan the license plates of rows of parked cars as the police vehicle rolls down a street.
That’s all well and good, provided you’re not one of the unlucky ones.
There were 13,429 vehicles stolen in Maryland last year, according to the state’s recently released 2013 Uniform Crime Report, a 7.3 percent decrease from 2012.
Prince George’s County has the lowest number of thefts on record, almost 16 percent below the previous year, but still leads the state with 4,293 vehicles swiped. Montgomery County almost matched its Maryland neighbor with an almost 15 percent drop, with 913 stolen cars.
The crime report put a value on the state’s stolen vehicles — $77,590,345 — and another value on the number of cars recovered — $50,164,181 — for a net loss of $27,426,154.
With the economy improving and vehicle theft becoming more difficult, the local trends were reflected nationwide, according to data tracking by AAA Insurance. The National Insurance Crime Bureau said there were 697,979 motor vehicle thefts, a slight decline.
The crime bureau said that drop came after an unexplained “small increase in vehicle thefts [in 2012] ended a consecutive eight-year run of decreasing thefts.”
The District reported 3,147 stolen vehicles, a more than 11 percent decline over the previous year, according to the 2013 Crime Report by the Metropolitan Police Department.
The D.C. number is down dramatically from 2009, when 5,299 vehicles were stolen, and from 2004, when 8,136 motor vehicles were taken.
Across Virginia, there were 8,318 auto thefts in 2013, according to data compiled by the Virginia Help Eliminate Auto Theft program.
Northern Virginia and the two other densely populated parts of the state recorded the highest rates of stolen cars.
Thefts declined almost 7 percent last year in Fairfax County, with 767 vehicles stolen. Arlington County had 157 thefts last year, a decrease of 13.74 percent.
The drop was more than 23 percent in Loudoun County, where 112 vehicles were stolen. Prince William County recorded 327 thefts, a 10.41 percent decline.
“Since, 1991, Virginia’s motor vehicle theft rate per 100,000 residents has declined by approximately 68 percent,” according to the Virginia State Police 2013 Facts and Figures Report.