John Townsend
Public Relations Manager, DC
O: (202) 481-6820 (ext. 4462108)
C: (202) 253-2171

WASHINGTON, D. C. (Wednesday, July 25, 2018) –– Auto thefts are trending upward year-on-year in Virginia and Maryland, but the annual auto theft rate is at a historic low in Washington, D.C., reports AAA Mid-Atlantic. So far this year, 1,346 motor vehicle thefts have occurred in the nation’s capital, as of July 24, 2018, compared to 1,332 auto thefts during the same period of time a year earlier, reports the Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC). While the city’s car theft rate is up one percent year to date, that tends to happen in July, it is down a whopping 66 percent since 2007. In contrast, motor vehicle thefts have soared nearly 36 percent in Virginia since 2014, and although the auto theft rate continues to fall in Prince George’s County, the jurisdiction remains the epicenter of the thefts of vehicles in the region.


It is the time of the year when cars “go poof!” – or “disappear” by the sleight of thieves. Every day, 18 cars are stolen in the District of Columbia, on average, cautions the MPDC, which also warns “stolen vehicles are often used to commit other crimes.” While the auto theft rate in the District of Columbia has been cut by two-thirds during the past 11 years, your vehicle is still more likely to be stolen in July and August than in any other month of the year. For this reason, July has been designated and dubbed “National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month” by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).


As a graphic reminder of the most terrifying form of auto theft, a band of thieves brazenly carjacked the car belonging to the girlfriend of District Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. The incident occurred in broad daylight on July the Fourth at a gas station in Southeast Washington. The black 2014 Mercedes Benz taken in the sneak attack has not been recovered, and the police are still searching for the crooks who pulled off the “slider” caper. A vehicle is stolen every 41 seconds in the United States.


“More car thieves seem to be on the loose, especially during the summertime months. Grand theft auto occurs when most people have other matters closer to their heart, and on their minds, including their vacation plans and whiling away their leisure time with family and friends. But don’t let your guard down,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Even now, more than 1,900 vehicles are stolen each day across the country. Yet, despite the seasonality of auto thievery, only about four out of ten Americans (38 percent) worry about their cars being stolen, according to a 2017 Gallup crime poll. Using a little common sense and readily available theft-prevention devices can minimize theft. It is as easy as one, two, three. The more layers of protection, the less likely your car will be stolen.”


                                                                  The District of Columbia

Not too long ago, it was called “America’s car theft capital.” Yet automobile thefts dropped ten percent in Washington, D.C. proper a year ago. Thieves filched 2,425 automobiles in the District during 2017, compared to stealing 2,700 vehicles in 2016, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) reports. Nationwide, “passenger cars make up about seventy-five percent of all stolen vehicles.” During the first seven months of 2018, thieves also rifled through 5,580 cars in the nation’s capital, compared to 5,881 vehicles in the same period a year earlier.  This is a five percent decline, as of July 24.  


Number of Stolen Vehicles in Washington, D.C.
























The District, once a hotbed of purloined vehicles, has witnessed a steep decline in the caper in recent years. The number of auto thefts in the District is free-falling. It dropped – mark this - 66.8 percent in the period from 2007 to 2017, according to metadata by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). For context, the auto theft rate plummeted from 7,323 stolen automobiles in 2007 to only 2,425 stolen vehicles during 2017.  Erstwhile, the auto theft rate in the District peaked in 1990, when the District reeled from “66 motor vehicle thefts per 10,000 residents.” Instead of taking the time and going through the trouble of hot wiring a car, which only takes a matter of seconds, wily thieves and joyriders in the Washington Metro Area are simply targeting unlocked cars. “An unlocked vehicle with a key in the ignition is an open invitation to any thief,” the Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC) warns, “regardless of any anti-theft device you may use.”



A car is stolen every 40 minutes on average in Maryland. An average of 17,904 were stolen each year across the state of Maryland in the ten-year period from 2006 to 2015, according to Maryland’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report. That pales in comparison to 1994, when 38,194 vehicles were stolen statewide. During 2016, auto thieves stole 13,857 vehicles across the state of Maryland, according to data compiled by the Maryland Statistical Analysis Center (MSAC). This compares to a kleptomaniacal spree of 30,522 motor vehicle thefts that occurred across the state back in 2006. Even so, 16,665 fewer auto thefts took place in Maryland during 2016 than in 2006. From 2007 to 2016, the auto theft rate in Maryland dropped by 54.5 percentage points.


Number of Motor Vehicle Thefts in Maryland
























Prince George’s County has the dubious distinction of being the biggest “den of car thieves” in the Washington metro area, despite a declining motor vehicle heist rate each passing year. In 2016, 3,371 vehicles were stolen in the county. From 2011 to 2015, Prince George’s County racked up 23,037 larcenous auto thefts. It is a countywide average of 4,607 motor vehicle thefts per year. This compares to a yearly average of 4,540 stolen vehicles in Baltimore City, 1,603 in Baltimore County and 957 in Montgomery County. Statistically, “50 percent of the vehicles stolen in Maryland had the keys inside and 60 percent were left unlocked.”



In Virginia, more vehicles are reported stolen during August than in any other month, as was the case in both 2016 and 2017, according to the Virginia State Police. The auto theft rate rose 5.1 percent in Virginia from 2016 to 2017, AAA Mid-Atlantic tabulates. Disconcertingly, the annual number of motor vehicle thefts in the Commonwealth increased 35.5 percent in the four-year period from 2014 to 2017.


Number of Motor Vehicle Thefts in Virginia
























  A grand total of 10,223 automobiles, buses, trucks, recreational vehicles, and other motor vehicles were reported stolen in Virginia during 2017. That is according to the 2017 Crime In Virginia Report compiled by the Uniform Crime Reporting Section of the Virginia Department of State Police. “Vehicle theft is a multi-million-dollar crime in Virginia. During 2017, “there was a total value loss of $86,025,726 related to 9,801 completed motor vehicle offenses,” reports the Virginia State Police.


In 2003, “more than half of the 62,616 car thefts throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District occurred in the Washington metropolitan area,” according to news reports at the time. As a part of its members benefit portfolio, AAA Mid-Atlantic offers a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone who steals or vandalizes your car.


After launching successful auto theft prevention programs, Virginia and Maryland are mirroring a national trend. Since peaking in 1991 the auto theft rate across the nation has been trending downward for 25 years. However, the number of stolen vehicles increased 3.8 percent in the United States during 2015, and vehicle thefts jumped 7.4 percent in 2016, explains the Insurance Information Institute (III). “In 2016, more than three-quarters of a million vehicles were stolen in the United States—and nearly half of those thefts were due to driver error,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). “Vehicle theft is a multi-billion-dollar crime, with the cost of stolen vehicles coming in at almost $6 billion in 2016 alone—up from $5 billion in 2015. Summers prove to be the worst season for vehicle theft.”


Read it and weep. Here are the top 10 most stolen vehicles in the United States:

1. Honda Accord

2. Honda Civic

3. Chevrolet Silverado

4. Toyota Camry

5. Ford F-150

6. Nissan Altima

7. Toyota Corolla

8. Ford F-250

9. Ford Econoline

10. Chevrolet Impala


Nearly 40 percent of all auto theft incidents occur “between the months of June and September,” warns the Virginia State Police HEAT program. “Radios and wheel covers aren’t the only popular stolen vehicle parts thieves take. They want whatever sells, from the mandated labeled parts to those that aren’t,” cautions by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). “Some of the most popular vehicle parts or valuable items stolen from vehicles include doors, engines, transmissions, air bags, radios, GPS units, cell phones, iPads, laptops, and purses.” Is it covered? Make sure you are covered, advises AAA Insurance:


  • Auto theft is covered under the comprehensive section of an auto insurance policy. Theft coverage applies to the loss of the vehicle as well as parts of the car, such as air bags. 
  • Comprehensive coverage, which is not mandatory, also pays for fire, vandalism, and weather-related damage, including damage from flooding and earthquakes.
  • Rates for comprehensive insurance are affected by the risk of loss, meaning the likelihood that an insured car will be stolen or damaged, and also the car’s value at the time of the loss.


While there has been a steep decline in pestiferous auto thefts in previous years, AAA would like to offer the following tips to help motorists prevent vehicle burglary and theft:


·         Always lock your vehicle with the windows closed.  Even if you park your vehicle in a garage, this simple measure is added security. 

  • Never leave belongings out in the open in your car as they could tempt thieves.
  • Never leave your keys in your vehicle or leave your vehicle running any time you are not in it.
  • Keep your vehicle in secure, well-lit areas. When possible, park in a locked garage. Also, consider installing a motion-activated floodlight that illuminates the place where your car is parked.
  • Use anti-theft or automatic tracking devices. If your vehicle wasn’t equipped with an alarm or hidden tracking device when purchased, have one installed.
  • Remove spare keys from vehicle. Never hide a spare ignition key in your vehicle. Remove keys from under floor mats, etc.


Although auto theft rates had been declining in recent years across the nation, car theft remains an all too common crime and caper. As a cautionary tale, motor vehicle thefts were up 4.1 percent nationwide, from January to June of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016. That is according to preliminary estimates by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in its Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, January–June, 2017.


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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and nearly 78,000 members in the District of Columbia.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit

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