Winnipeg still clings to the title of car theft capital of Canada, but has seen a dramatic drop in the number of vehicle thefts in the past couple of years.

Winnipeg's rate of vehicle theft in 2007 was 25 per cent higher than a decade ago, Statistics Canada reports, despite declines in two of the past three years. The overall national rate of vehicle theft dropped nine per cent in 2007, according to a report issued Monday by Statistics Canada.

University of Manitoba sociologist Rick Linden said the Statistics Canada figures are potentially misleading because they include incidents of attempted theft as well as actual auto thefts. He said if the report showed only actual thefts Winnipeg would be shown in an entirely better light because efforts by police and auto insurers to curb auto theft have been working.

"In completed thefts we're actually down 27 per cent," Linden said of the 2007 Winnipeg figures. "And in 2008 we're down 44 per cent in both completed and attempted thefts."

Statistics Canada said Manitoba's overall auto theft rate dropped 10 per cent in 2007. Manitoba still has the highest per capita rate of stolen vehicles, almost double that of the next highest province, Alberta.

Brian Smiley of Manitoba Public Insurance Corp. echoed Linden's view.

"As of today Winnipeg wouldn't be the car theft capital of Canada," Smiley said. "In fact, Abbotsford, B.C., and Edmonton, Alta., are probably the auto theft capital of Canada."

Sgt. Kevin Kavitch of Winnipeg's stolen auto unit said at one time there were as many as 18 vehicles stolen each day in Winnipeg. Now, he said, it's fewer than eight.

Winnipeg police have said that about 2,300 cars had been stolen in the city between January and October. That's down by 1,500 over the same period in 2007.

Cities in western Canada led the country in vehicle thefts and while Winnipeg led the pack, the city was closely followed by Abbotsford, B.C., Edmonton and Regina. Linden said those numbers could change in 2008.

The report said teenagers aged 15 to 18 accounted for three of every 10 vehicle thefts.

"From what we gather we're going to be fairly similar to Abbotsford," Linden said, adding the auto theft rate will be similar among Winnipeg, Edmonton, Regina, and perhaps Calgary, for 2008.

He said it's possible Edmonton could usurp Winnipeg as the city with the dubious label of car-theft capital in 2008.