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Law enforcement faces uphill battle against car thefts

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.

A new report published Friday by the insurance industry says Bakersfield is among the worst cities in America when it comes to car thefts.

Per capita, Bakersfield places worst in California and third-worst in the United States.

It's an uphill battle for authorities. Car thefts have risen substantially in each of the last two years to more than 7,000 in 2016.

Henry Miller said after his bad luck with cars, he leaves them at home and calls an Uber instead.

"I think it is pretty horrible, not only car thefts but all the break-ins that happen with all the cars around here," he said.

Cheri Smith with the Automobile Club of Southern California said it's a growing problem, but there are protective measures you can take.

"No. 1, always lock your vehicle with your windows rolled up," she said. "Do not leave valuables in your car, especially where anyone can see them."

A member of the California Highway Patrol auto theft task force said that our large rural areas provide lots of places for thieves to hide stolen cars.

Many car thieves are repeat offenders, and a high number of thefts are attributed to insurance fraud operations and large chop shop rings.

Fred Payne said his family learned that lesson the hard way after someone nearly stole a vehicle with his granddaughter still inside.

"My son-in-law left the car running while he took one girl in," Payne said. "He left the other girl in the car, somebody jumped in the car, told my granddaughter to get out, luckily, and stole the car."

The Central Valley is also full of the kind of vehicles most often targeted, older Hondas and pickups.

Thieves target fleet vehicles used by farming operations that are often stored well outside the city.

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