Increase in burglaries at Western Washington auto dealers, repair shops

UPDATED: MARCH 2, 2022 AT 7:49 AM
KIRO Newsradio Reporter

Be careful next time you take your car in for an oil change and drop it off the night before. Auto dealers and repair shops are increasingly becoming a target of burglars around the Puget Sound region.

Dramatic rise in car thefts blamed on new Washington state law

From Bellevue to Olympia, burglars are reportedly breaking into dealerships and mechanics’ shops, often by ramming their cars into service entrances.

The object of the burglary usually appears to be the keys to the cars on site — either the dealership’s own cars or the keys that people drop off when having their cars worked on. The criminals steal the cars at the time of the burglary, or return later for them.

This happened early Friday morning at Nissan of Olympia, when burglars rammed a car into the service entrance to get in. John Brown, the dealership’s general manager, said the burglars took the keys to two cars that were waiting for service.

“They did take a customer’s car, so what they’re really doing is looking at the service drive to see if there’s any night drop, because customers will drop cars off at night,” Brown said. “They got [two cars], but we’ve recovered one of the cars already — we’ve got one car that we’re still looking for.”

The Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force, made up of police officers from different agencies, is putting a special emphasis toward catching the burglars. The task force is recommending that auto dealers and repair shops put any keys dropped off after hours in a safe or similar secure storage system, so they could not be easily accessed by trespassers. The task force also suggests upgrading video systems and keeping parking lots well-lit.

Brown said his dealership already has a secure key drop, but he and his colleagues plan to further fortify the building by reinforcing the large glass windows and blocking entrances with cars.

“If you think you’re secure, you’re not secure. They’re always going to try to find a way, they’re always trying to find new ways,” Brown said. “So we’re blocking every entrance possible with our own cars. I mean, every car dealership has enough cars to block.”