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Car vandalism and property crime facts

Shot of a passenger-side window that has been smashed in.
William Andrew/Getty Images
Shot of a passenger-side window that has been smashed in.
William Andrew/Getty Images
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Violent crime grabs the headlines, but property crime and vandalism occur at even higher rates. While property crime does not involve physical harm to someone, it does have repercussions. While statistics show a staggering amount of property crime and vandalism has occurred during the last several years, there has been a decline happening. While this is good news, awareness and prevention of property crime and vandalism are still important. It is also essential to understand the role auto insurance coverage plays when dealing with the effects of vandalism.

Property crime statistics

Property crime is defined as an offense that occurs where there is no force or threat against someone, but the victim’s property is stolen or destroyed. The most common types of property crime include burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, destruction of property or vandalism.

Info
  • The FBI estimates 6,925,677 property crime offenses occurred in the U.S. in 2019. (FBI)
  • Property crime losses totaled $15.8 billion worth of damages in 2019. (FBI)
  • The 10-year trend shows property crimes have decreased 24%, comparing rates from 2019 to 2010. (FBI)
  • The Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics shows a similar decreasing trend in property crime from 2011 to 2020. In 2020, 94.5 out of 1,000 households reported a property crime compared to 138.7 out of 1,000 in 2011. (Bureau of Justice Statistics)
  • Larceny-theft (the unlawful act of taking property away from someone) accounts for the highest percentage of all property crimes, representing over 73%. (FBI)
  • Motor vehicle theft is the third most prevalent property crime reported. (FBI)
  • In 2019, motor vehicle theft was the crime most likely to be reported (79.5%), but least likely to be solved (13.8%). (Pew Research Center)
  • There were 721,885 motor vehicle thefts reported nationwide in 2019, which is an estimated 219.9 per 100,000 inhabitants. (FBI)
  • In 2019, the average amount of loss per stolen vehicle was $8,886. (FBI)
  • Automobiles represented the largest portion of stolen vehicle type (74.5%), while the Northeast regions experienced the highest percentage of auto theft (86.1%). (FBI)
  • Theft of catalytic converters in vehicles has risen dramatically, doubling from 2018 to 2019, as the value of precious metals has also increased. (National Insurance Crime Bureau, NICB)
  • Motor vehicle theft, which occurred simply by someone leaving the keys or a key fob in the vehicle, increased 56% over three years from 2016-2018, compared to the years 2013-2015. (National Insurance Crime Bureau)
  • The top five states with the most thefts with keys or fobs left in the vehicle during 2016-2018 were California, Florida, Texas, Ohio and Nevada. (NICB)

Vandalism

Another example of a property crime is car vandalism. This occurs when someone purposefully causes damage to a vehicle belonging to someone else. While there are common examples, such as keying a car or slashing tires, there are numerous forms of vehicle vandalism. Damage can occur from scratching someone’s paint with any object (not only a key), which could lead to the vehicle owner needing a new paint job. Broken windows or mirrors are also examples of costly damage. Stolen tires and slashed tires are expensive acts of vandalism, not only requiring tire replacement, but also the cost of towing an inoperable vehicle.

Distinguishing between the various acts of vandalism becomes even more important when dealing with auto insurance claims, including what is covered and if you want to file a claim or not.

Keyed car

If someone says their car has been keyed, it means a key was used to scratch the paint on a vehicle. A keyed car could involve superficial scratches where a simple buff is all that is needed for repair, or a more severe example of keying a car could mean an entire paint job is needed.

  • What to do if you have a keyed car: Start by filing a police report if you suspect your car has been keyed. This is necessary for reporting the crime and if you choose to file an insurance claim. After you have filed the police report, you will need to contact the insurance company.
  • How to prove your car was keyed: Take as many photos of the damage and include as many details about the damage as possible. This includes the location and the estimated timing of when it occurred.
  • Does insurance cover a keyed car?: If you have the optional comprehensive coverage added to your auto insurance policy, then your expenses should be covered. Comprehensive insurance is optional auto insurance coverage and includes coverage for acts of vandalism. Keep in mind comprehensive insurance has a deductible (the amount you pay out of pocket when you file a claim).

Slashed tires

Slashed tires is a serious act of vehicle vandalism, both from a financial and a safety standpoint. When tires are slashed by someone, it makes the vehicle inoperable and the tires have to be replaced right away. Since the vehicle is not driveable it means a tow truck is needed to get the vehicle to a tire repair shop, adding cost to the vandalism.

  • What to do if you have slashed tires: If you know, or suspect, your tires were slashed then you should file a police report. Not only is this required from a legal standpoint, but it can aid you if you file an insurance claim. You’ll need to contact the insurance company shortly thereafter too to start the claims process.
  • How to prove your tires were slashed: Taking as many photos as possible, noting the time of day and any other circumstances surrounding the event, is helpful for both the legal investigation and insurance aspect. Write down and provide as many details as possible including the location and estimated time it occurred. Ask to retain the damaged tires when getting them replaced in case you need them for your claim.
  • Does insurance cover slashed tires? Not only does comprehensive insurance likely cover slashed tires (if you have the optional comprehensive coverage), but your insurance policy may provide a rental car while you are getting your new tires. Rental cars are provided only if you have the optional rental car coverage add-on.

Hit and run

You may not first think of hit and run accidents as a form of property crime, but this serious offense is included within the broad category. A hit and run occurs when another driver hits a vehicle or another person with their own vehicle, and then flees the scene without reporting the accident as required by law. Unlike vandalism, where the vehicle can be repaired, a hit and run can result in both damage and injury or death. A hit and run is a property crime when the damage occurs to the vehicle, such as a side swiped car without it being reported or if someone hits a parked car and drives off.

Is hit and run a felony?

Generally speaking, a hit and run becomes a felony when there is an injury to another person. The laws vary from state to state on when a hit and run is considered a misdemeanor or a felony, highlighting how serious it can be. Consider these other facts related to hit and run accidents:

  • Over 682,000 hit and run crashes were reported each year from 2006 to 2018. (AAA)
  • Unlike property crimes in general, deaths from hit and run accidents have increased an average of 7.2% per year since 2009. (AAA)
  • It is estimated a hit and run occurs every minute in the U.S. (AAA)
  • 65% of people killed in hit-and-run crashes were pedestrians or bicyclists. (AAA)
  • New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida have the highest fatality rate of hit and run crashes per capita, while New Hampshire, Maine and Minnesota had the lowest from 2006 to 2018. (AAA)

How to prevent vandalism

Although the overall numbers are decreasing, property crimes and car vandalism still exist. Fortunately, there are easy steps we can each take to lower the risk of experiencing car vandalism. While most newer cars are equipped with an anti-theft system, taking even more precautions may be necessary.

  1. Remove valuables from your vehicle. Leaving valuables in plain sight may make it even more tempting for thieves to break into your car. Secure your valuables, such as phones, jewelry or other electronics, or leave them at home if possible.
  2. Change up your routine. Try not to park in the same spot each day or at the same time, if possible. Changing up your routine makes it harder for criminals targeting a specific area.
  3. Park in a covered area. Parking in a closed area or garage may lessen the chance of a criminal vandalizing your vehicle. The closed area is not only harder for criminals to move in and out of, but there are usually more security cameras.
  4. Park near other vehicles. At the very least, park near other vehicles where there is higher foot traffic. This increases the chance of someone seeing vandalism in action.
  5. Pay attention to well-lit areas. Parking in well-lit areas may help deter vandalism, including on the street or in parking lots.
Written by
Sara Coleman
Insurance Contributor
Sara Coleman is an insurance contributor at Bankrate. She has a couple of years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as The Simple Dollar, Reviews.com, Coverage.com and numerous other personal finance sites. She writes about insurance products such as auto, homeowners, renters and disability.
Edited by
Insurance Editor