Modesto No. 1 in U.S. for Auto Thefts, Report Says

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MODESTO -- The city of Modesto is once again at the top of a national list, but it's a list that is bringing some of the city's problems to light. A newly released report claims Modesto's Metropolitan area is the No. 1 spot for car thieves.

Whether it's a brazen car theft caught on camera in Modesto or a missing red Chevy.

“For 30 seconds I thought I was losing my mind and forgot where I parked,” said David Lambert of Modesto after his car was stolen in April.

Turns out, auto theft happens in the Modesto metropolitan area more often than any other city in the U.S. That’s according to this newly released study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which details how every city in the U.S. stacked up in 2015.

“I moved here five years ago, and at that time I got the word that this is pretty much the car theft capital of the world,” Lambert recalled.

The report claims more than 4,000 Modesto drivers had their cars stolen in 2015 alone.

Lambert's car disappeared from Needham Street back in April. He said his red Chevy was found in early June -- just blocks away from where it went missing.

“I did a happy dance. I thanked God,” Lambert said as he silted.

The Modesto Police Department told FOX40 they are constantly working to prevent these kinds of crimes.

“It’s very disappointing to us to be back up No. 1 on the list,” said Heather Graves, a spokeswoman with the Modesto Police Department.

Before 2014, Modesto actually saw the number of auto thefts decrease. Police believe the new spike in car thefts could be attributed to something they can't control, which is Prop 47.  The law reduced some felonies to misdemeanors, which led to more people being released from jail.

“After that passed in November of 2014, we did see a spike in auto thefts as well as other property crimes in Modesto,” Graves said.

Officers say drivers can take measures to help prevent criminals from taking their vehicles. Here are some tips: be sure to take the keys out of the ignition, lock and activate the alarm.

Layers of protection that Lambert plans to follow.

“Watch where I park it for sure. But as I said, I’m not going to be paranoid,” Lambert said.

Other California cities that made the top 10 are the Stockton-Lodi area at No. 6 and the San Francisco Bay Area in fifth place.

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