The year 2020 saw the most vehicle thefts in more than a decade and the trend continued in 2021.

AAA is urging vehicle owners to always lock up their vehicles and take the keys. This small effort will save car owners time, money and heartache, the advocacy group says.

According to the latest New Jersey statistics from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, more than 12,000 people reported their vehicles stolen in 2020.

According to AAA Insurance, the average claim for vehicles stolen was more than $11,000, which isn't always covered by insurance.

Over the last five years, almost 64,000 vehicles have also been reported stolen in New Jersey.

These were the top five vehicles reported stolen in the Garden State.

1. Honda Accord 

Honda Accord (Photo Credit: Daniel Salcius; Unsplash.com)
Honda Accord (Photo Credit: Daniel Salcius; Unsplash.com)
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2. Honda Civic 

Honda Civic (Photo Credit: C. Joyful; Unsplash.com)
Honda Civic (Photo Credit: C. Joyful; Unsplash.com)
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3. Ford Pick Up 

Ford Pickup (Photo Credit: Jonathan Letniak; Unsplash.com)
Ford Pickup (Photo Credit: Jonathan Letniak; Unsplash.com)
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4. Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee 

Jeep Grand Cherokee (Photo Credit: Kirk Thornton; Unsplash.com)
Jeep Grand Cherokee (Photo Credit: Kirk Thornton; Unsplash.com)
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5. Nissan Altima 

Nissan Altima (Photo Credit: Rebecca Lane; Unsplash.com)
Nissan Altima (Photo Credit: Rebecca Lane; Unsplash.com)
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AAA spokeswoman Tracy Noble said locking car doors gives people peace of mind and acts as a deterrent for thieves.

Never leave the car running with the keys in it.

That's leaving someone open to become a victim. Even if the driver is quickly running into a convenience store or dropping something off at a friend's house, turn the ignition off and take the keys.

Never leave the keys in the vehicle.

While the "keyless" feature is convenient for the car owner, It's also convenient for the thief who can steal the car with just the touch of a button.

Always lock the car.

Even without the keys, thieves are more likely to steal an unlocked car than a locked one. Noble said before going to bed at night, either go to a window in the house or to the front door and just click the lock button on the set of keys from inside, just to be sure the vehicle in the driveway or garage is locked.

Park the car in a garage or a well-lit area

Whether it's at home, at the mall, or on the road, always try to park in an area where suspicious activity would be noticeable.

Keep valuables out of sight.

Utilize the trunk or storage compartment in the vehicle to put shopping bags if you're going to multiple stores. Never leave change, money, credit cards, cell phones, GPS devices in the passenger compartment of the vehicle where people can see them.

"While there are people who are thinking, who doesn't do this, unfortunately, there were 12,000 people in 2020 who may not have done these simple things and were the results of a stolen vehicle," Noble said.

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