The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported this week that for calendar year 2004, California has once again set the pace for auto theft. Seven of the nation's top ten areas with the highest vehicle theft rates are in California. The communities of Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona and Seattle-Everett-Bellevue, Washington round out the top ten.For 2004 -- with their 2003 ranking in parenthesis -- the ten metropolitan statistical areas with the highest vehicle theft rates are: 1. Modesto, CA (1) 2. Stockton-Lodi, CA (3) 3. Las Vegas, NV (4) 4. Phoenix-Mesa, AZ (2) 5. Sacramento, CA (5) 6. Oakland, CA (7) 7. Visalia-Tulare-Porterville, CA (15) 8. San Diego, CA (9) 9. Fresno, CA (6) 10. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA (11)According to Hot Spots, its annual report on auto theft rates, NICB reviewed data supplied by the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) for each of the nation's 336 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). The rate is determined by the number of vehicle theft offenses per 100,000 inhabitants using Census 2000 population figures.Two cities -- Detroit, MI and Miami, FL -- fell from the list and were replaced by Visalia-Tulare-Porterville, CA and Seattle-Everett-Bellevue, WA ranked at 7 and 10 respectively. Phoenix-Mesa, AZ improved moving from second to fourth place while Stockton-Lodi and Oakland, CA each moved up a notch from last year as did Las Vegas, NV.In 2004 there was a slight drop in auto theft nationally. Preliminary FBI data shows a 2.6% decrease in motor vehicle thefts from 2003's activity. This decrease comes after four years of steadily rising auto theft figures.