Dramatic rise in car thefts blamed on new Washington state law

Jan 28, 2022, 5:55 AM | Updated: Jan 31, 2022, 6:21 am
Screengrab from witness video of a stolen car crashing into police cars that had boxed the thief in...
Screengrab from witness video of a stolen car crashing into police cars that had boxed the thief in. (Video provided to KIRO Newsradio)
(Video provided to KIRO Newsradio)

Car thefts in Washington have increased by 50% since a new state law limiting police pursuits took effect at the end of July 2021, according to Steve Strachan, the executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

“From around 2,000 to 2,500 stolen vehicles per month, we’re now well over 3,000 and 3,500,” he said.

Competing proposals for catalytic converter theft crackdown up for Thursday vote

In Port Orchard, Police Chief Matt Brown estimates car thefts have increased five-fold.

On Thursday, Brown says witness video captured the scene as a driver in a stolen car crashed into police cars that had boxed the thief in. The driver eventually rammed his way free.

Despite damage to the patrol cars, “that type of assault is not considered a violent crime under current legislation regulating pursuits,” Brown said.

So the officers had to let the car thief go.

Police officers feel their hands are tied, and Strachan says the crooks know it.

“The word is out and people know about this and it’s leading to brazen disregard for the law,” he said.

Lakewood grandmother and Army veteran Sheila Davenport agrees. She says a crook recently stole her car in front of her.

“I had my hand on the door and he jumped right into my car,” Davenport said.

The thief took off in her 2020 Kia Optima and disappeared for days.

The vehicle was recovered, but “now the vehicle has methamphetamine in it,” Davenport said. “And who knows what else they’ve done in it.”

She says the illegal drugs are being cleaned out of her car, and she doesn’t know when she’ll get it back.

After complaints from law enforcement, state legislators say they’re working to improve the state’s new police pursuit law.

That appears to be small comfort to Davenport.

“I’ve been victimized more than once,” she said. “I’ve been victimized by the thief who gets away with stealing, and then I’m victimized by the legislature, and now I’m victimized by the police department,” which she says is blaming the government for allowing car thieves to get away.

Local News

SDOT Light Rail Ped...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Pedestrian struck, injured by Link light rail train in south Seattle

A pedestrian was struck and injured by a Link light rail train Wednesday afternoon in south Seattle.
24 hours ago
(Photo courtesy of King County)...
Frank Sumrall

King County executive initiates plan to conserve and save the region’s wilderness

King County executive announced a plan to protect 65,000 acres of forests, farmland, and greenspace, raising property taxes in the process.
24 hours ago
MyNorthwest Staff

Drought may impact most of Pacific Northwest this summer

Drought is expected to impact much of the Pacific Northwest this summer, impacting areas throughout eastern Washington, southern Oregon and southern Idaho.
24 hours ago
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)...
Frank Sumrall

SPD report discovers 80% of 911 calls were for non-criminal events

After reviewing more than 1.2 million 911 calls from 2017 to 2019, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) found 79.7% of calls were for non-criminal events.
24 hours ago
KIRO 7 News Staff

9-year-old boy shot by younger brother in Federal Way

A 9-year-old boy was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center after being shot by his younger brother in Federal Way.
24 hours ago
The US government will fly in baby formula on commercial planes contracted by the military in an ai...
Heather Bosch

A guide to locate baby formula from Washington’s Department of Health

Washington's Department of Health has put together a list of resources to help find nutritious food to feed your newborn.
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Dramatic rise in car thefts blamed on new Washington state law