The Washington State Legislature has determined that “A person is guilty of theft of a motor vehicle if he or she commits theft of a motor vehicle” Theft of a motor vehicle is a class B felony.

Why are we reading about Auto Theft?

  1. Automobiles are an essential part of our everyday lives!
  2. The West Coast is the only region of the United States with an increase of over three percent in motor vehicle thefts over the last several years. (2007)
  3. The family car is a priority of most individuals and families.
  4. The family car is typically the second largest investment a person has next to the home, so when a car is stolen, it causes a significant loss and inconvenience to people, imposes financial hardship, and negatively impact their work, school and personal activities.

Is it really that big a problem?  You be the judge!

  1. In Washington, more than one car is stolen every eleven minutes, one hundred and thirty-eight cars are stolen every day.
  2. Someone’s car has a one in one hundred seventy-nine chances of being stolen
  3. More vehicles were stolen in 2005 than in any previous year.
  4. Since 1994 auto theft has increased over fifty-five percent.
  5. The national crime insurance bureau reports that Seattle and Tacoma ranked in the top ten places for the most auto thefts, ninth and tenth respectively in 2004.l
  6. In 2005 over fifty thousand auto thefts were reported costing Washington citizens more than three hundred twenty-five million dollars in higher insurance rates and lost vehicles.
  7. Juveniles account for over half of he reported auto thefts with many of these thefts being their first criminal offence.

Hopefully your eyes are now open, but, keep in mind that these statistics from the internet (Washington State Legislature) are about fifteen years old.  A great deal has happened since then.  One important thing is the price of vehicle has increased tremendously.  Registration costs have gone up, cost of fuel has gone up, cost of insurance has gone up and sadly auto theft rates continue to climb.

Citizens who have not been a victim of auto theft and suffered the loss of their car even for a few days fail to realize that very few stolen cars are returned to the victim in the condition they were in when stolen.  Tires are flat, body damage very common and generally they have suffered some vandalism.  Naturally the insurance company will take care of it.  Possibly, but it will never be returned to the condition it was when stolen.  What out of pocket expenses did you experience due to the theft?  Renting a car? Paying for the impound and storage fees (cash or credit card) if the vehicle was found quickly.   These out of pocket expenses go on an on.  We have not even considered the costs and inconvenience of having to go to court IF the crook is apprehended!  Now, just consider this, your car was five years old, its has depreciated in value but is still your family car.  When stolen it was wrecked (totaled), you will need to find another vehicle.  Are you going to find something as good as your old car with the allowance the insurance company is offering you?  Are you going to have to retain an attorney?   Prices of used cars have gone up!

Enough already!!!!!

What is the answer?   As much as I hate to say this, the answer is up to you.  How do you protect your home from burglary?

There are several things you can do to prevent auto theft, but each will take some due diligence on your part.

Let’s keep this short and sweet!

  1. LOCK YOUR CAR, EVERY TIME YOU PARK IT!
  2. PARK IN A WELL LIGHTED LOT NOT IN A DARK ALLEY.
  3. PARK WHERE YOUR VEHICLE IS VISABLE TO OTHERS.
  4. NEVER LEAVE YOUR KEYS IN THE CAR.
  5. NEVER LEAVE YOUR WINDOWS DOWN
  6. REPORT SUSPICIOUS PERSONS IN THE AREA (immediately, not next week)

Will this stop Auto Theft?   NO!

Will this make a difference?  Possibly!

What are the chances of my car being recovered?  Very good, a high percentage of stolen cars are recovered in the first several weeks but you can only bet on it in Las Vegas!

Please follow www.jeffersoncountysheriffsfoundation.org  for further information on how to protect your property from theft.

Doug Henderson
President, Jefferson County Sheriffs Foundation
San Diego Police Department
Retired Sgt. San Diego County Sheriff’s Department