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Federal Way and Washington cut auto theft in half | Top 10 stolen vehicles
Vehicle theft has decreased more than 50 percent in Federal Way and Washington since 2005.
Much credit is given to legislation passed in 2007 that created task forces and tougher laws dedicated to stopping auto thieves.
According to the Washington Crime Information Center, Federal Way had 659 stolen vehicles in 2010. The worst year for auto thefts in Federal Way occurred in 2005, when 1,573 vehicles were stolen, said Deputy Chief Andy Hwang.
The thefts occur in locations with a large concentration of vehicles, such as shopping centers, apartment complexes or park-and-ride lots. Stolen vehicles are often stripped of parts at “chop shops” for money to support drug habits and other criminal endeavors, Hwang said.
“Our officers are looking for auto thieves,” said Hwang, pointing to a proactive approach in targeting repeat offenders. A South King County regional task force, which is chaired by Federal Way police, has identified trends in auto thefts while focusing on specific individuals and groups.
“Over the years,” Hwang said, “that’s made a difference.”
Many vehicle thefts are attributed to prolific criminals who commit other violations such as burglaries and fraud, Hwang said. He credits the reduction in Federal Way auto thefts for also reducing the number of local burglaries. For the first quarter of 2011, the number of burglaries in Federal Way was 147, which declined 36 percent compared to 210 burglaries in the first quarter of 2010, he said.
In King County, the total number of stolen vehicles in 2011 so far (January through April) is 2,594. From January to April 2010, King County had 3,113 stolen vehicles, according to data provided by the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority. Click here to view more statistics.
The Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority (WATPA) was created by legislation passed in 2007 to combat auto theft. As part of the Elizabeth Nowak-Washington Auto Theft Prevention Act, tougher sentencing laws were also implemented.
In 2005, Washington was ranked among the top five states in the nation for auto theft with more than 50,000 stolen vehicles that year, according to WATPA. In 2010, the total number of stolen vehicles statewide was 23,658.
The South King County task force receives an $800,000 grant per year from WATPA. The money funds seven positions including a crime analyst and Federal Way police lieutenant as well as detectives from Auburn, Renton and Bonney Lake. Regional task forces also operate in Snohomish, Lakewood, Vancouver, Yakima and Spokane.
Public awareness combined with the task forces have contributed to the decline of auto thefts, said Grant Clark, spokesman for WATPA. Police tools such as “bait cars” and license plate readers have also helped crack down on thieves.
South King County is a hotbed for auto theft and car prowlers due to its location between Seattle and Tacoma, Clark said: “It’s so close to everything.”
In 2009, the estimated cost of motor vehicle theft for Washington residents was more than $154 million, according to WATPA. In 2006, that cost was more than $305 million. WATPA reports that in 2010, the estimated cost of motor vehicle theft in Washington will be $165 million.
BY THE NUMBERS: Federal Way and King County
Number of actual stolen vehicles in Federal Way in 2010
Total stolen vehicles in Federal Way in 2010: 659
Number of actual stolen vehicles in Federal Way in 2011 (year to date)
Total stolen vehicles for Federal Way in 2011 (year to date): 170
Total stolen vehicles for King County in 2010: 8,662
Total stolen vehicles for King County in 2011 (year to date): 2,594
Top 10 vehicles stolen in 2010
1. 1994 Honda Accord
2. 1995 Honda Civic
3. 1989 Toyota Camry
4. 1997 Ford F-150 Pickup
5. 2004 Dodge Ram Pickup
6. 2000 Dodge Caravan
7. 1996 Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee
8. 1994 Acura Integra
9. 1999 Ford Taurus
10. 2002 Ford Explorer
Sources: Washington Crime Information Center (WACIC) and Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority (WATPA)