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Report: Minnesota is top in nation for snowmobile theft

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A group of snowmobilers
A group of snowmobilers watch vintage snowmobile races near the finish line on Clear Lake in Waseca, Minn.
Jackson Forderer for MPR News

You might want to keep an eye on your snow machine if you're a Minnesota sledder.

It turns out the North Star State is the nation's capital for snowmobile theft, according to a new report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The report, released Tuesday, is the first time the NICB looked at the crime on a nationwide basis.

Thieves stole more than 300 snowmobiles in Minnesota over three years from 2015 to 2017. That's about two Polaris, Arctic Cat, Yamaha and Ski-Doo skedaddles a week, according to data compiled from police reports. 

Almost half the 20 counties in the U.S. reporting the most snowmobile thefts are in Minnesota, led by Anoka and St. Louis counties. Hennepin and Ramsey counties, in the heart of the Twin Cities, are also among them.

Even worse news — more than half of the sleds are never seen again.

Scafidi says snowmobiles are particularly vulnerable to theft, because they're often stored on transport trailers that make them easy to haul away — sometimes left for long off-seasons in remote places. They also don't generally present themselves in public with great regularity, like cars on a road, where law enforcement can spot them and get them back.

"They're not that large. They can be easily hidden, the can be taken to somebody's cabin and used minimally there," Scafidi said. 

The theft data has some other insights: Michigan has the next highest number of thefts, with about 200 reported over the three years of data. Also, January and February are actually the peak riding and theft season, though, with more than 100 a month being stolen across the country over the last two winters. Scafidi says there were actually two thefts reported in Los Angeles in the data — sleds swiped from a California ski resort.

Initially set up in 1912, the NICB was set up to fight motor vehicle theft, and now tackles fraud for 1,100 member insurance companies. The organization uses National Crime Information Center data to compile its reports.

"Snowmobiles would come up when we would do our annual Hot Wheels report, which is the most stolen vehicle in every state in the nation," said Frank Scafidi, spokesperson for the NICB Every now and then, especially in the northern states, Wisconsin, Minnesota, you name it, we'd see every once in a while a snowmobile would show up in the top 10, along with all the other vehicles as the most stolen item."

The car theft reports cull the sleds out, but the NICB decided this year to pull the data out separately.

He suggest snowmobile owners can fight theft by storing their machines securely and recording data like VIN and license numbers.