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Metro Bakersfield auto theft rises nearly 20 percent, tops California in thefts per capita

Bakersfield, Calif., area vehicle thefts have risen two years in a row to more than 7,000 in 2016, according to statistics provided by the insurance industry.

Auto thefts in the Bakersfield area increased by nearly 20 percent in 2016, making Kern County the vehicle theft capital of California.

More than 7,000 vehicles were stolen in 2016. Per capita, that's the third-highest total in the entire nation.

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Jonathan Staricka said Friday that Kern County's large amount of rural land provides a lot of out-of-the-way places for thieves to hide stolen vehicles. He said many car thieves are repeat offenders.

With thieves targeting older, less-valuable vehicles, some thefts only warrant misdemeanor charges in court.

The CHP has an auto theft task force that targets insurance fraud operations and large-scale chop-shops. The task force began in 2007 and has grown to include the Bakersfield Police Department.

Many car thefts, Staricka said, do not involve forced entry, meaning lots of victims are chosen because they are easy targets.

The Automobile Club of Southern California advises never leaving keys in a vehicle -- not even a hide-a-key sometimes hidden in a wheel well or under a floor mat.

It's also risky to leave a car running at a gas station or in a driveway.

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