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FBI reports a decline in auto thefts for region

Though Buffalo Niagara region residents were the most vulnerable to automobile thefts in New York State in 2010, things have improved, according to newly released FBI crime statistics.

There were 1,868 thefts in the metropolitan statistical area for Buffalo and Niagara Falls, or 164.51 per 100,000 people. Nationally, Buffalo Niagara ranked 186th worst last year -- a slight improvement from 2009 (2,301 thefts) when it ranked 182nd and 2008 (2,484 thefts), 173rd.

The New York City-Northern New Jersey-Long Island region was second highest in the state, which ranks in the lower half nationally, according to the report. Glens Falls posted the lowest rate.

Ellen Melchionni, president of the New York Insurance Association, said lower theft rates are accomplished by drivers taking better steps to prevent their cars from being stolen, police vigilance and heightened attention of insurance companies.

"Drivers need to remain vigilant," Melchionni said.

To reduce the chance of vehicle theft, the New York Insurance Association recommends "layers" of protection, Communications Director Cassandra Anderson said.

Besides common-sense measures such as locking car doors and keeping windows rolled up, alarms, steering wheel, brake pedal and tire locks are recommended, she said.

Also, a smart key -- an electronic access and authorization system -- makes it considerably more difficult for a thief to hot-wire a car, said Anderson, who added that vehicle tracking devices are useful to police in the event of a theft.

e-mail: jbolitho@buffnews.com

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