Last year, 7,596 Accords from the 1994 model year were stolen, according the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The 1998 Honda Civic was the second most-stolen car, the trade group said Monday. It was the seventh straight year that the top two spots were filled by cars from the Tokyo-based manufacturer.
"They're actually stealing the older cars because the safety features that the newer cars have, they're not there," said Joe Brosius, a retired Tempe, Ariz., police officer who heads the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators. "They're easy to steal, that's why they're always No. 1."
Newer vehicles are equipped with a feature to prevent them from being started when a key isn't present, making the cars harder to hot-wire, Brosius said in a phone interview. Honda added the technology, which it calls the immobilizer system, to cars in 1997 and 1998, said Chris Martin, a spokesman for the automaker.
"It takes the technology barrier for a thief fairly high," Martin said by phone. "They need to be fairly sophisticated to get around that."
Ford full-size pickups from the 2006 model year were the third most stolen in 2011, the first time a truck made the top three in data compiled by the group that goes back to 2000. That's in part because NICB included more models in the category, said Frank Scafidi, a bureau spokesman. Ford's F- Series, including the F-150 and F-250 pickups, has been the best-selling line of vehicles in the U.S. for the past 30 years.
The 2000 Honda Civic was the most stolen car in New York, while the 1994 Accord was favored by thieves in New Jersey and the 1997 Accord was the No. 1 target in Connecticut.
Brosius said crooks often use stolen cars to help them commit other crimes.
"If you're going to be selling dope and stuff, robbing things, doing burglary, any other crime, you're probably going to steal a car because you don't want to use your own," he said. "It's sort of a gateway crime."
The data used in the NICB report track only the most popular model year for each car on the top 10 most-stolen list, so that no vehicle is listed twice. Nationally, U.S. vehicle thefts dropped 3.3 percent last year to the lowest level since 1967, for eight straight declines, according to preliminary figures cited by the NICB. The trade group uses data provided by the National Crime Information Center, a database of crime statistics for use by agencies nationwide.
Vehicle-tracking technology, such as General Motors's OnStar, has helped cut down on car thefts, Scafidi said.
"You're going to see less and less thefts as a general statement, just because of the anti-theft technology," he said. "It will come to a point where everybody has something on their smartphone that says your car's been tweaked."
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