Jul 18, 2023 - News

With car thefts high, Seattle-area police urge prevention

Illustration of a parking lot with a car-shaped dotted line.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

July is National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month and with Washington state reporting some of the highest car theft rates in the nation, Puget Sound police are doubling down on prevention and urging people to be proactive.

Driving the news: Motor vehicle crimes, including car thefts and car prowls, are typically "crimes of opportunity," Sgt. Eric White of the King County Sheriff's Office told Axios.

  • That means the harder it is to steal something, the less likely it is to get stolen.
  • Some Kia models, for example, are easily swiped because they lack anti-theft devices, he said. Other, newer models, such as a 2024 Mercedes-Benz with a key fob and push-start button, are much more difficult to steal due to "very complex systems to prevent car theft," White said.

Why it matters: Washington state saw a decrease in the total number of vehicles reported stolen in the first quarter of 2023 compared with the same period last year — 10,912 versus 12,730, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

  • However, the state remains the third highest in the country in the total number of motor vehicle thefts, crime bureau spokesperson Nicholas Zeitlinger told Axios in an email.
Seattle Police Department; Chart: Axios Visuals

By the numbers: Slightly more than 3,700 vehicles have been reported stolen in Seattle so far this year with 624 reported in June, according to the most complete data available on the police department's crime dashboard.

  • That's up from the 383 reported in June of 2022, according to the Seattle Police Department. There were nearly 7,000 car thefts in the city last year.
  • In Redmond, a total of 220 vehicles were reported stolen in 2022, up 31.7% over 2021, Police Department spokesperson Jill Green told Axios. So far this year, police have responded to 146 reported auto thefts, Green said.

Be smart: Here are some of the top tips from Seattle and Redmond police as well as the Sheriff's Office:

  • Lock your doors, close your windows and take your keys with you and never leave your car running.
  • Remove valuables or at least keep them out of sight. If you must hide valuables in your trunk, do so before arriving at your destination.
  • Take advantage of technology: Use a steering wheel lock, invest in an audible alarm and anti-theft device or install a vehicle immobilizer system.

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