BOSTON (TheStreet) — Thieves steal some 2,000 cars across America every day, but here are some communities where you can park your vehicle and the odds are good it'll still be there when you return.
"These are places that have very minimal auto-theft problems — in fact, it probably doesn't even deserve to be called a problem," says Frank Scafidi of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which recently released its 30th annual Hot Spots list of metro areas with the highest and lowest auto-theft rates.
The NICB, which does research for insurance companies, compiles its yearly rundown by analyzing an FBI database that police across the country use to report vehicle thefts. Cities that scored the best in this year's study had the lowest number of cars stolen last year on a per-capita basis from among America's 380 largest metro areas.
Scafidi says the winning communities are all relatively small, as "a larger population tends to mean you have more people who live on the wrong side of the law."
The five safest cities for your car are also all in the Northeast or Midwest, while most are college towns. Scafidi isn't sure why that is, but cautions drivers not to let their guard down even in low-risk locales.
"You don't have to be paranoid, but you do have to use some common sense," he says. "Door locks only work if you use them, and car windows were made to be rolled up when you're not in the car."
So lock your doors, roll up your windows and read on to check out the five cities the NICB found have America's lowest auto-theft rates (or click here to see which communities have the highest per-capita problem with car crooks).
All vehicle-theft numbers refer to 2013 FBI statistics for metropolitan areas as a whole, not just to incidents that occur within city limits. By contrast, overall property- and violent-crime statistics apply only to cities, rather than entire metro areas, and reflect a NeighborhoodScout.com analysis of 2012 FBI data (the latest year with final figures available).
Fifth-best U.S. city for car thefts: Ithaca, N.Y.
You don't need an Ivy League education to avoid car theft in Cornell University's 104,000-person hometown.
That's because the Ithaca metro area had just 29 car thefts last year, which any brainiac can tell you works out to an auto-theft rate of only 28 incidents for every 100,000 residents. (Rates in the worst cities for car thefts top 700 per 100,000 people.)
Unfortunately, Ithaca's crooks might just be making smart decisions to stick to other criminal activity, as the overall property-crime rate in this community some 200 miles northwest of New York City is 86.5% above the U.S. median. On the plus side, violent crime runs 41.5% below what's typical nationwide on a per-capita basis.
Fourth-best U.S. city for car thefts: Glens Falls, N.Y.
New York City's criminals often get "sent up the river" to Sing Sing prison in the Hudson River community of Ossining, but car thieves apparently don't make it as far north as Glens Falls.
That's because Glens Falls — which is on the Hudson River some 165 miles north of Sing Sing (and 200 miles north of New York City) — has practically no auto thefts. The 128,000-population metro area recorded just 34 stolen cars last year, or 26.5 vehicles stolen for every 100,000 locals.
In fact, Glens Falls residents enjoy low crime across the board. The city's property-crime rate runs 12.2% below the national median, while per-capita violent-crime levels are 25.6% less than the U.S. norm.
Third-best U.S. city for car thefts: Midland, Mich.
This central-Michigan community is just 120 miles northwest of Detroit, but it's world away from the Motor City when it comes to car theft.
The Detroit area's 4.3 million residents reported 18,343 stolen vehicles last year, but Midland's 84,000 citizens saw just 21 incidents during the same period.
That works out to 25 car thefts per 100,000 residents in Midland vs. 427 in Detroit, which has America's 23rd-highest vehicle-theft rate.
In fact, Midland has low crime levels in general. Per-capita violent incidents run 76.9% below the U.S. median, while property crimes occur 62% less frequently than the nationwide rate.
Second-best U.S. city for car thefts: State College, Pa.
This is another college town where you don't have to have a Ph.D. to avoid car theft.
Home to Penn State University, 155,000-population State College had just 35 stolen cars reported last year. That's a minuscule 22.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents.
Located in central Pennsylvania some 135 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, State College also boasts a violent-crime rate 67.4% below the national average, while overall property crimes run 23.4% less than what you'd expect given the community's population.
Best U.S. city for car thefts: Harrisonburg, Va.
Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University, but you won't need one of JMU's famous Duke Dogs to guard your car if you park there.
After all, Harrisonburg recorded only 27 vehicles stolen last year — giving this community 120 miles southeast of Washington, D.C., the lowest auto-theft rate in big-city America. The 129,000-population metro area has just 21 car thefts for every 100,000 residents.
Harrisonburg has below-average crime in general. Violent incidents run 43.6% below the U.S. median on a per-capita basis, while the overall property-crime rate is 17.1% less than the national norm.