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4 of top 10 per capita car theft cities are along 99; Stockton-Manteca came in at 17th in 2019
auto theft

Living along the Highway 99 corridor is the worst place in the United States to reside in terms of auto theft.

The 2019 analysis of auto thefts conducted by the National Insurance Crime Bureau lists nine of the top 50 hot spots for per capita car thefts as metro areas along the 424.8-mile Highway 99 corridor including 4 of the top 10.

However, chances of having your car stolen in Manteca have dropped steadily since 2005 when 798 vehicles were stolen. That compares to 283 vehicle thefts in 2019.

As for Ripon, auto theft is a relative rarity.

Topping the Highway 99 theft list is Bakersfield where 6,538 vehicles were stolen in 2019 or 726.28 per 100,000 residents.

Fourth is Modesto that includes Turlock and Ceres at 3,156 thefts (573.13 per 100,000 residents), seventh is Yuba City at 959 thefts (546.61 per 100,000), and eighth is Merced at 1,483 thefts (528.10 per 100,000).

Modesto moved up the list from 2018 when it was fifth with 3,124 thefts.

Stockton — which includes Manteca, Lathrop, Tracy, Lodi, Ripon, and Lathrop in its metro area for theft statistics — came in at 17th in 2019 with 3,686 thefts or 438.62 per 100,000 residents. That was a big drop from 2017 when Stockton was seventh with 4,287 thefts.

Other Highway 99 cities on the list for 2019 were Chico at 20th, Visalia at 26th, Fresno at 33rd, and Sacramento at 48th.

San Jose was the only other California city in the top 50 per capita for vehicle thefts as it came in at 24th.

Between 2003 and 2015 Modesto and Stockton have been consistently in the top 10 nationally with Modesto making the No. 1 spot six times and Stockton getting as high as No.2. Stockton dropped out of the Top 10 in 2016 into 12th nationwide with 4,075 thefts.



798 vehicles stolen

in Manteca in 2005

Vehicle theft numerically and per 1,000 residents peaked in Manteca in 2005. That’s when 798 vehicles were stolen. The pace of thefts that year translated into 13.3 vehicles per 1,000 residents. The 798 vehicles stolen in 2005 included a big rig tractor left idling in front of a home and a Manteca Police patrol unit.

Manteca responded with stepped up enforcement including bait cars where vehicles were placed in high theft areas waiting for criminals to try to steal them. Once they jump started the vehicles officers in unmarked vehicles would move in and activate a kill switch to turn off the engine. On one occasion in 2006, a bait car along Airport Way was in place for less than 15 minutes before an arrest was made.

The department also did an education blitz advising residents how best to secure their vehicles and to stop leaving keys in the ignition or engines running.

Back in 2005 just over 20 percent of the vehicles stolen in Manteca had keys in the ignition or had their engines running.  In recent years it has dropped down to 5 percent, a figure in line with the national average.

Part of Manteca’s success at cutting back its auto theft rates over the years can be credited with the dedication of a Manteca officer to the countywide task force combating auto theft that encompasses officers from Stockton, Lodi, and the CHP.

The 2019 statistics for Manteca reflected 283 vehicles stolen, down from 381 in 2018.

There have been 205 vehicles stolen through the end of October this year in Manteca. That is down 17.67 percent from the same point in 2018 when 249 vehicles were stolen.

At that rate Manteca could end the year with 240 vehicle thefts.

If that is the case, it will roughly match the vehicle theft numbers of 2011 when 238 cars were stolen when Manteca had 69,000 residents — 17,000 less than today. That reflected 3.44 vehicle thefts per 1,000 residents.

If 2020 ends with 240 car thefts, it would translate into 2.79 thefts per 1,000 residents.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email