The number of cars stolen each year is half what it was in the early 1990s. But theft should be even rarer except that vehicle owners do boneheaded things like leaving the engine running during a stop at a convenience store.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau says in some cities you have to be extra vigilant to keep your car safe from thieves.

The insurance industry group's annual "Hot Spots" report finds these U.S. metro areas have the highest rates of vehicle theft. Grab your keys and follow along as we count down to the city where car theft is worst.

12. San Francisco

A view of a typical San Francisco road, Usa
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The San Francisco-Oakland metro area has an auto theft rate of 570 thefts for every 100,000 residents.

In 2017, 26,942 car thefts were reported locally.

San Francisco had far fewer vehicle thefts last year than California's biggest metropolis, Los Angeles, which reported 60,444. But L.A. ranks just 33rd on the list because its much larger population translates to a lower overall theft rate.

11. Charleston, West Virginia

Five O'clock traffic in downtown Charleston, West Virginia
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The metro area around West Virginia's capital city, Charleston, sees 571 auto thefts for every 100,000 residents.

In 2017, 1,224 car thefts were reported locally.

To help curb car theft nationwide, vehicle owners need to be smarter. From 2013 through 2015, nearly 150,000 cars were reported stolen because the keys had been left inside, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reports.

10. Springfield, Missouri

Springfield Missouri, USA- May 18, 2014. Springfield road arrow sign with cafe background in best western route 66 rail haven.
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The Springfield metro area sees 581 auto thefts for every 100,000 residents.

In 2017, 2,686 car thefts were reported locally.

The easiest and most cost-effective way to stop a car thief is to just use common sense, the NICB says. That means take the keys out of the ignition; lock doors and close windows; and park areas that are well lit.

9. Yuba City, California

Yuba City Water fall
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The Yuba City metro area in northern California sees 605 auto thefts for every 100,000 residents.

In 2017, 1,050 car thefts were reported locally.

Give your vehicle a second layer of protection by using a method that shows or tells a thief to leave your car alone. These might include a lock on the brake pedal, a collar secured around the steering column, or a very loud alarm.

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8. Stockton-Lodi, California

STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 6, 2017: Distressed Main Street in one of the largest cities to file for bankruptcy.
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The Stockton-Lodi metro area, east of San Francisco, sees 614 auto thefts for every 100,000 residents.

In 2017, 4,575 car thefts were reported locally.

You might triple up on the security with a device that would immobilize your car and make it impossible for a thief to hot-wire it. The NICB says examples include a "smart" ignition key with a computer chip inside, or a fuel disabler.

7. Modesto, California

The old Southern Pacific train station serves as the bus station for Modesto. The station serves Greyhound, Stanislaus County bus line and the Modesto bus lines.
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The Modest metro area, located in California's Central Valley, sees 706 auto thefts for every 100,000 residents.

In 2017, 3,870 car thefts were reported locally.

Twelve out of the 25 cities with the worst auto theft rates are in California, but the state Highway Patrol says things are improving. The number of vehicles stolen in the state last year was down 6.2% from 2016's total.

6. Bakersfield, California

BAKERSFIELD, CA - DECEMBER 13, 2014: Traffic is light on a Saturday morning on Union Avenue, looking north from the Truxtun Avenue overpass.
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The Bakersfield metro area, also in the Central Valley, sees 735 auto thefts for every 100,000 residents.

In 2017, 6,560 car thefts were reported locally.

The California Highway Patrol says the cars stolen most often in the nation's most populous state are the 1998 Honda Civic, the 2000 Honda Civic and the 1997 Honda Accord. Thieves often target older cars for their parts.

5. St. Joseph, Missouri

The Pony Express Motel in St. Joseph, Missouri
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The St. Joseph metro area, which straddles Kansas and Missouri in the region north of Kansas City, sees 750 auto thefts for every 100,000 residents.

In 2017, 952 car thefts were reported locally.

St. Joseph is the second Missouri city to rank high on this list, along with Springfield. Both are new to the top 10, reports the NICB, which adds that all of the Show-Me State's metro areas saw increases in vehicle thefts last year.

4. Redding, California

REDDING, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 8 2012: Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay in Redding, California.
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The Redding metro area in northern California sees 751 auto thefts for every 100,000 residents.

In 2017, 1,352 car thefts were reported locally.

The California Highway Patrol says one vehicle was stolen every three minutes in the state last year. Authorities have recovered nearly 90% of the vehicles that California car thieves made off with in 2017.

3. Pueblo, Colorado

Mirrored Condo, Pueblo, Colorado
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The Pueblo metro area, about 115 miles south of Denver, sees 813 auto thefts for every 100,000 residents.

In 2017, 1,353 car thefts were reported locally.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau says you can give your car one last coat of protection by installing a tracking device, which would send a signal to police or a monitoring station to help authorities recover your vehicle faster.

2. Anchorage, Alaska

Traffic near Anchorage on Alaskan road in good weather with cars on freeway
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The Anchorage metro area sees 817 auto thefts for every 100,000 residents.

In 2017, 1,353 car thefts were reported locally.

Alaska's largest city has quickly moved near the top of this list. Two years ago, it ranked 47th for car theft. Last year, it had the nation's sixth-worst vehicle theft rate.

1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque residential suburbs, New Mexico
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The Albuquerque metro area sees a staggering 1,097 auto thefts for every 100,000 residents.

In 2017, 9,989 car thefts were reported locally.

Albuquerque tops this ranking for the second straight year, despite efforts to knock down the city's theft rate. The NICB held its annual vehicle theft summit in the city last year and bought billboards to warn car owners about the problem.

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