California is the car theft capital of the country with four of its metropolitan areas on the top ten list of cities where a car is most likely to be stolen.

Modesto leads the top ten list with the highest rate of auto theft per capita of any metropolitan area in the country, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

California also had more car thefts than any other state. In 2006 Californians lost 242,693 cars to theft. Texans lost 95,429 cars. NICB is still tabulating the final numbers for 2007.

Cities in western states claimed all ten spots measuring auto theft rates, according to the NICB.

Many of the cities facing high theft rates are near the border with Mexico and that can make it difficult for police to recover the stolen vehicles.

"Once it's in Mexico or Canada, then you are dealing with another country and you can't go in there and root around," said Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for NICB, said.

Some older cars like the 1989 and 1990 Toyota Camry are stolen to use the parts in fraudulent automotive repairs, Scafidi said. Cut rate body shops often look for car parts that they can sell on the black market to people who want to have their cars fixed for less money than a legitimate body shop would charge.

The NICB metro area rankings are based on figures from the National Crime Information Center.

There is some good news. Preliminary FBI crime data suggests that vehicle thefts dropped 7.4 percent in 2007. If the numbers hold up, 2007 would be the fourth consecutive year of declining vehicle thefts. Since 2000, thefts across the country have dropped 11 percent.

Here are the top ten metropolitan areas for car theft according to NICB.

1. Modesto, California
2. Las Vegas/Paradise, Nevada
3. San Diego/Carlsbad/San Marcos, California
4. Stockton, California
5. San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont, California
6. Laredo, Texas
7. Albuquerque, New Mexico
8. Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale, Arizona
9. Yakima, Washington
10. Tucson, Arizona