Which major California city has the highest rate of car thefts? Hint: It's not L.A.

This Thursday, May 21, 2020, photo shows a parked car with a broken driver's side window after a smash-and-grab break-in in Los Angeles. The coronavirus hasn't been kind to car owners. With more people than ever staying home to lessen the spread of COVID-19, their sedans, pickup trucks and SUVs are parked unattended on the streets, making them easy targets for opportunistic thieves. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
A car after it was broken into in Los Angeles in 2020. (Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

Motor vehicle theft has been on the rise in California, but the highest rates of theft per capita are not in one of its biggest cities, Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco.

The total number of car thefts in California rose by 1.9 percentage points in 2022 to a total of 198,538, according to the California Highway Patrol's 2022 California Vehicle Theft Facts report.

The agency's report ranks Los Angeles County as having the most car thefts in the state — 61,770. But according to the FBI's 2019 Crime in the United States report, the city with the most motor vehicle theft when taking population into consideration is Oakland. The 2019 FBI report is the agency's most recent crime analysis but local crime statistics confirm a spike in vehicle thefts in Oakland in recent months.

Oakland, a Bay Area city with a population of about 400,000, has nearly 12 car thefts per 1,000 people, according to the FBI's report.

By comparison, Los Angeles, with a population of 4 million, had nearly 4 people per 1,000 experiencing car theft. San Francisco, with a population of almost 1 million, had nearly 5 people per 1,000 report a car theft. San Diego has a population of 1.4 million, with nearly 4 per 1,000 people experiencing a car theft, according to the report.

The increase in auto thefts in Oakland has largely being attributed to an overall surge in crime. Lobbyists for retailers and some politicians in Oakland are blaming Proposition 47, a 2014 law that made some nonviolent property crimes, in which the value of the stolen items does not exceed $950, into misdemeanors, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The rise in overall crime in Oakland prompted some businesses to close their doors for an undetermined length of time Tuesday in a protest designed to pressure city officials to create a plan to lower crime rates.

During the city's most recent council meeting, lawmakers passed a resolution to give the city administrator the duty of identifying options and analyzing existing programs to help reduce crime.

Read more: Los Angeles police fatally shoot man after report of vehicle theft in progress

Car theft precautions

According to the Los Angeles Police Department and the California Highway Patrol, these are the best precautions to avoid being a victim of car theft:

  • Never leave your car running unattended.

  • Never leave any keys in the car or ignition — that includes a spare key.

  • Always roll up your windows and lock the car.

  • Never leave valuables in plain view, even if your car is locked.

  • Always park in high-traffic and well-lighted areas.

  • Install a mechanical device that locks the steering wheel, column or brakes.

  • Invest in the purchase of a vehicle theft tracking/security system, especially if you own one of the frequently stolen model vehicles.

  • Never leave personal identification documents, vehicle ownership title or credit cards in your vehicle.

  • Beware of your surroundings prior to leaving your vehicle.

In the event that your car is stolen, both agencies advise that you immediately report the car stolen to your local police department.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.