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DES PLAINES, Ill. — The National Insurance Crime Bureau spotted another widespread drop in the amount of vehicle thefts nationwide; this time it was last year as compared to 2008. Officials now believe vehicle thefts throughout the country have trended downward for six consecutive years. 

Based on data obtained from the National Crime Information Center, NICB indicated that a total of 304 of 366 metropolitan statistical areas reported lower amounts of vehicle lefts in 2009. That calculates into an 83-percent drop among MSAs throughout the country.

Furthermore, bureau officials noted that an indication stemming from the FBI's 2009 preliminary semi-annual crime report published last December demonstrates that vehicle thefts might be headed downward even more. The FBI report shared that vehicle thefts might drop by as much as 18 percent from 2008 totals once the final figures are tabulated in the fall.

"This is great news on the vehicle theft front," declared Joe Wehrle, NICB's president and chief executive officer.

"Six straight years of vehicle theft reductions are the result of a lot of hard work on the part of law enforcement, prosecutors, legislators, NICB member companies, NICB personnel and insurance industry trade groups who have contributed expertise and energy to have an impact on this crime," Wehrle continued.

NICB's Hot Spots report also examined which individual MSAs ranked highest in vehicle thefts. The area that ranked second on this chart in 2008 moved up to No. 1 this time — Laredo, Texas.

Sliding down just one position for the top of this NICB chart was Modesto, Calif.

All but one area that comprised the rest of the top 10 on this list also were included in 2008. They also are all west of the Mississippi River.

The rest of the theft rankings went as follows: Bakersfield, Calif.; Stockton, Calif.; Fresno, Calif.; Yakima, Wash.; San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont, Calif.; Visalia/Porterville, Calif.; Las Vegas/Paradise, Nev.; and Albuquerque, N.M.                              

NICB also attempted to clarify any confusion on this latest theft report. Officials noted that MSAs are designated by the federal Office of Management and Budget and often include areas much larger than the cities for which they are named. One example they shared from the report was the Laredo, Texas, MSA includes all thefts within the entire county of Webb, in addition to the city of Laredo.

Along with offering the details of its report, NICB also made several recommendations that could prevent vehicle theft. Officials described it as a "layered approach."

First, the bureau mentioned what it called, "common sense," which included practices such as removing keys from the ignition, locking doors and closing windows and parking in well-lit areas.

Next, officials discussed warning devices such as audible alarms, brake and wheel locks, VIN etching and micro dot marking.

Furthermore, NICB indicated that individuals can use immobilizing devices to prevent vehicle theft. The organization said these tools can range from smart keys and fuse cut-offs to starter, ignition, and fuel pump disablers and wireless ignition authentication.

Finally, the bureau mentioned a GPS tracking device can be installed on a vehicle that can emit a signal to be monitored by law enforcement.

Officials also highlighted that discounts are available for a select group of theft deterrent and recovery devices through their Web site at https://www.nicb.org.