NICB issues top 10 cities for car theft: California and Vegas rank high

Listeners tuning to oldies radio stations aren't the only ones who are California Dreamin'. The 1965 Mama's and Papa's song could also be an anthem for car thieves.

In 2007, four out of the top 10 regions for car theft were in the Golden State, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). This year Modesto, California topped the list, knocking the area of Las Vegas and Paradise, Nevada, to second place in the ranking of the most vehicle offenses per 1,000 residents.

The auto theft problem in Modesto has police stumped. The city of 208,107 is at the epicenter of the nation's subprime mortgage crisis, but the problems predate that, according to Sgt. Craig Gundlach, a department spokesman. "If we knew, then we wouldn't be up there at the top," he said, adding that the city is a "high intensity area for methamphetamine (use)."

According to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, one reason why car theft is rampant there is because car owners do not take the necessary precautions. "Most car thieves are amateurs who steal cars for transportation, i.e., 'joy riding,'" the department says on its web site. "The Las Vegas Valley is no different than any other large metropolitan area, but with its added 32 million-plus tourists annually, the problem can be magnified."

To be sure, plenty of other regions face problems with car theft -- many of them on the West Coast. Rounding out the NICB's list for top 10 metropolitan statistical areas for vehicle theft are San Diego/Carlsbad/San Marcos, California; Stockton, California; San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont, California; Laredo, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale, Arizona; Stockton, California; Yakima, Washington; and Tucson, Arizona (AOL Money & Finance has a slideshow of the top 20 regions).