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Grand Theft Auto? Not So Much Anymore as Car Tech Improves

There may be far more cars on the road, but car theft has plunged 58 percent since 1991’s all-time high, according to new FBI data. Increased law enforcement and enhanced automotive technology have combined to make it tougher on car thieves, though nearly 700,000 vehicles were still snatched in the U.S. last year.

Nonetheless, “It means that if you own a vehicle, your chances of having it stolen today are statistically and significantly less than at any other time since 1960,” according to a new analysis of the FBI data by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, or NICB.

In 1991, an all-time record 1,661,738 were stolen. Last year that fell to 699,594. Measured another way, in 1960 there were 182 vehicles stolen for every 100,000 U.S. citizens. By 1991 that had soared to 659 per 100,000 population. Last year, that dipped to 221 per 100,000. The use of push-button starters and digital keys, plus other advanced technologies have made it harder to break into and hot wire cars. Other new systems have made it possible to track and catch thieves, even if they do make off with your wheels. “Put simply, cars are just more difficult to steal today than ever before and technology has made that possible,” said a statement from the NICB.

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