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Auto Theft Facts

What is auto theft?

Auto theft is the unlawful act of stealing or attempting to steal a motor vehicle, including but not limited to: automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles and scooters. In Virginia, thieves steal more than 10,500 motor vehicles each year, and stolen vehicles and parts are valued at more than $120 Million annually.

How can I identify auto theft?

Movies and television shows often refer to “chop shops” but what is that? Chop shops are where stolen vehicles are stripped of parts. Some signs of chop shops are salvage yards that disassemble new or undamaged cars, sell vehicle parts at below-market prices or have hard-to-find vehicle parts at very low prices. When purchasing a new or used vehicle, deals that seem too good to be true usually are. Some red flags include late-model cars with fresh paint jobs, sellers without manufacturer-made keys and prices far below similar models. If you have suspicions about a vehicle chop shop operation or are skeptical about a new or used vehicle, contact the Help Eliminate Auto Theft (HEAT) program for more information. If you are able to provide valuable information that leads to an arrest you could earn up to $25,000 cash! You can submit a confidential tip here.

How does auto theft affect me?

Victims of auto theft are not limited to owners of stolen vehicles. According to the FBI’s 2019 Uniform Crime Report, there were an estimated 721,885 thefts of motor vehicles nationwide. More than $6 billion was lost nationwide due to motor vehicle thefts.

As vehicles are stolen, insurance companies must often cover the cost. High insurance claim totals result in higher insurance rates for you because most insurance companies base their rates on overall loss. Also, some insurance providers use the risk of auto theft as a factor when calculating your insurance policy rate and may provide discounts for anti-theft protection devices.

Lastly, law enforcement resources that are tied up in stolen vehicle investigations are drawn away from other crimes. It is difficult for criminals to commit other crimes (e.g. robbery, homicide, arson, etc.) without a vehicle so if your vehicle is stolen it may be used in other offenses.

What should I do if my car is stolen?

If you are in immediate danger, always call 911 first. If you return to your vehicle and it isn’t where you left it, you have a big problem. Make sure that your vehicle has not been impounded, towed or repossessed for any violations. If you confirm that your vehicle is stolen, first call the police to file a report. Provide them with all of your vehicle information including your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and license plate, along with the time and location of disappearance. Law enforcement will likely question you about the status of the door locks, who had keys to your vehicle, who might have access to the vehicle, etc. This is all part of a normal investigation.

Law enforcement can sometimes use license plate readers and provide patrol officers with your stolen vehicle’s make and model to keep an eye out. Next, call your insurance company and let them know that your car has been stolen and the police are working on locating it. This is an important step because your insurance provider can help protect you in case your car is used to cause harm or damage after it is stolen.

If you have information about a stolen vehicle or vehicle parts, you can submit a tip by calling the HEAT program at 1-800-947-HEAT or submitting a tip online.