In Louisiana, Officials Kick Off Auto-Theft Awareness Campaign

Louisiana officials are preparing to begin a monthslong awareness campaign to battle vehicle thefts, burglaries and coverage-related crimes, with the drivers there seeing a substantial statewide drop in the number of stolen vehicles over the last half-decade.

The campaign from the Louisiana Department of Insurance (LDI) begins next week and will continue through January in a series of billboards and radio ads. Insurance commissioner Jim Donelon said that increasing awareness is critical to reducing theft, “especially around the busy holiday shopping season.”

“Do not leave valuables in your car and remember to always lock your car doors when leaving your vehicle,” he said in a statement.

Lower Theft Numbers Seen Statewide and Nationwide in Recent Years

The latest figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) show that the number of vehicle thefts nationwide dropped by 3.3 percent between 2011 and 2010. The estimated 715,373 motor vehicle thefts in 2011 is 35 percent less than numbers from 2007 and 42.6 percent less than in 2002.

An annual report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), called Hot Spots, tracks vehicle thefts by areas throughout the U.S. The report, based on theft rates that compare numbers with population, ranked the following areas in Louisiana for 2011:

–New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner (4,330 total thefts, or one theft for every 275 residents)
–Alexandria (376 total thefts, or one theft for every 411 residents)
–Monroe (375 total thefts, or one theft for every 474 residents)
–Lake Charles (408 total thefts, or one theft for every 492 residents)
–Shreveport-Bossier City (408 total thefts, or one theft for every 540 residents)
–Baton Rouge (1,453 total thefts, or one theft for every 566 residents)
–Lafayette (483 total thefts, or one theft for every 574 residents)
–Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux (244 total thefts, or one theft for every 855 residents)

Of those areas, which the bureau grouped into “metropolitan statistical areas,” New Orleans has held relatively steady in its place in the NICB rankings as the metro area with the 36th-highest rate of vehicle thefts in the nation; it ranked 32nd and 38th in 2010 and 2009, respectively.

Other Louisiana cities have also held similar positions in the rankings over the last three years, including Monroe, which also ranked 117th in 2010 and 116th in 2009. Shreveport, which had the 147th-highest rate in 2011, was 141st in 2010 and 142nd in 2009.

In the same period, Alexandria did not fare as well. In the nationwide rankings, the metro area rose from the 151st spot in 2009 to 146st in 2010 and 92nd in 2011.

Other metro areas, however, have improved in theft rates. Baton Rouge, which currently has the sixth-highest theft rate in Louisiana and 154th-highest in the U.S., had the 114th-highest rate nationwide in 2010 and 98th-highest in 2009.

What Theft Means to Your Insurance

Motor vehicle theft is covered by the comprehensive portion of your auto policy, which, if you purchased it, provides security for a number of incidents that weren’t caused by a crash, including weather damage.

About 3 in 4 policyholders have comprehensive coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Residents in the areas mentioned above who get quotes on comprehensive coverage are likely to see higher prices than residents in other areas with lower theft rates. That’s because the cost of comprehensive coverage is directly affected by how frequently drivers in your area file theft claims. If you’re at a higher risk for having your car stolen, an insurer will charge you more to compensate for that elevated risk.

For example, California, a true “hot spot” for thefts in the NICB report, had 7 of its metro areas ranked in the report’s top 10 for theft rates. OAI compared average comprehensive coverage rates at nine insurers for the Golden State’s highest theft rate area, Fresno, with its lowest theft rate area, Santa Maria.

The analysis showed that the average comprehensive coverage policy in Fresno was 52 percent more expensive than the same policy in Santa Maria.

Consumers Can Curb Comprehensive Costs with Antitheft Devices

Donelon partly attributed the “significant reduction” in Louisiana’s theft figures to “the effective use of antitheft technology such as license-plate readers and alarm systems.”

In fact, comprehensive coverage can often be discounted on vehicles with antitheft devices. According to the III, such discounts are typically 15 to 20 percent for passive devices that automatically arm themselves when the vehicle is locked.

The size and availability of discounts varies by insurer, so check with them to see if your vehicle has security add-ons that qualify for a discount.

Officials Offer Tips

Aside from having antitheft devices, the LDI offered these common-sense tips motorists can take to prevent theft that include:

–Take your keys out of the ignition whenever leaving the car, and never leave it running.
–Park with your wheels turned toward the curb.
–Park in well-lit areas.
–Close your windows all the way.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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