State laws play part in dramatic rise in stolen vehicles, according to auto theft task force

Aug 23, 2022, 1:00 PM
auto theft...
(Flickr images)
(Flickr images)

Last Friday, the Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force conducted a multi-agency auto theft-emphasis patrol in Pierce County. The agency worked with Tacoma Police, Lakewood Police, Sumner Police, Washington State Patrols, and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

In just one day of auto theft-emphasis patrols, the task force recovered 15 stolen vehicles and two firearms, made six arrests, and confiscated approximately 1,000 suspected fentanyl pills.

Darren Moss, Sergeant with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, said there’s been a 110% increase in stolen vehicles over the past five years. The department attributes the rise partly to policing laws that prevent law enforcement from pursuing vehicles.

“120% yes. There’s a combination of things that happened. When COVID hit, one of the things that also helped with these increases, we were unable to book offenders for adult theft. We’d catch a guy in a stolen car, dust him off, and let him go,” Moss said on the Gee and Ursula Show. “And it didn’t take the crooks long, maybe a week or two, to figure out, hey, they’re not booking us for stealing cars anymore. So that started the increase. But now that we have this law that doesn’t allow us to chase stolen vehicles, I think they’re taking advantage of that as well.”

One of the auto theft cases involved a Chrysler Town and Country that was stolen during a carjacking where authorities detained six juveniles.

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“There was an incident where two of our undercover deputies followed a van that was stolen from one apartment complex to another one. When they finally stopped, they did a felony stop on him,’ Moss said. “And it was a 12-year-old boy driving the stolen vehicle. And when they patted him down, he had a firearm on him. There were six other juveniles in that car, all between 13 and 15 years old.”

A state law that went into effect last January now requires an attorney present to consult with a juvenile suspect before police can ask any questions.

“So basically, you’re never going to talk to a juvenile when you make an arrest anymore. So we don’t get to ask these kids, what they were doing, who they were hanging out with, that kind of stuff,” Moss said.

The driver is facing charges for possession of a stolen motor vehicle and unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree. The 12-year-old alleged driver was booked at Raymond Hall Juvenile Detention Center. The other kids will not face any charges.

“It’s really concerning. Where did this 12-year-old get this idea? Who put it in his head? Where do you learn this from? Who is he hanging out with that has this influence on him to make these decisions so early in life? Why is this so popular for young kids to go out and commit these horrendous crimes against the community?”

Moss stated when young kids are involved in incidents like this, that normally points to gang activity.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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State laws play part in dramatic rise in stolen vehicles, according to auto theft task force