U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Motor Vehicle Theft: Crime and Spatial Analysis in a Non-Urban Region

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2006
169 pages
This report presents findings from a 2003 study of vehicle thefts in a four-county region of western North Carolina composed primarily of small towns and unincorporated areas.
A total of 633 vehicle thefts were recorded by police in 2003. The thefts were widely dispersed, with 235 of the 248 census block groups in the region having at least 1 theft. Vehicle thefts were significantly higher in areas with higher concentrations of rental housing and in areas with manufacturing or industrial land use. In contrast to vehicle theft in urban areas, business premises were common theft locations, particularly car dealerships and repair shops. A significantly high number of vehicles other than cars and trucks were stolen, including ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) and mopeds. These findings suggest using crime prevention strategies that limit access and/or increase security at specific types of locations, such as car dealerships and industrial sites, including holding business owners accountable for increasing vehicle security and preventing thefts. The security of vehicles should also be increased in areas with high concentrations of rental housing, such as securing parking lots or increasing natural or formal surveillance. There should be public education campaigns that instruct vehicle owners in the securing of their vehicles. In order to assess the accuracy and usefulness of crime and spatial analysis for vehicle theft, incident reports for 2003 were collected from 11 law enforcement agencies in the Western Piedmont region of the State. Because of the absence or inaccuracy of offense-location addresses, all offense locations were visited based on descriptive information from crime reports. GPS (global-positioning system) equipment was used to establish x-y coordinates via satellite. These coordinates were integrated into the Geographic Information System. The map developed added GPS coordinates to complete the missing data from geocoding. 10 tables, 8 figures, 10 maps, and 170 references

Date Published: August 1, 2006