JASON RANTZ

Auto Theft Prevention has funds siphoned while car thefts reach all-time high

Mar 14, 2023, 3:05 PM

Photo: Kevin Dahlgren removes broken glass from a car window after it was burglarized on March 12, ...

Kevin Dahlgren removes broken glass from a car window after it was burglarized on March 12, 2022 in Seattle. (Photo: John Moore, Getty Images)

(Photo: John Moore, Getty Images)

A bill, if passed, would dedicate 2% of the existing premium tax revenue to be used by the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority to stop funds that have been diverted away from car theft prevention.

According to Senator Lynda Wilson of the 17th Legislative District (R-Vancouver), Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority’s funding was being diverted to help fund different departments — including the Department of Corrections and Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) — all while auto thefts across the Puget Sound region have increased exponentially.

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Senate Bill 5672 passed through the Senate on a 48-0 vote and now sits in the House’s Committee on Appropriations. If passed, it is expected to create approximately $7 million for auto theft prevention.

“And that’s what this [bill] is going to do. We’re going to stop that from happening so they cannot use that money anymore,” Wilson said on The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “There are too many good things that this account has been funding, at least in the past. And this was all funded by traffic infractions, we know that people aren’t stopping, and there are less cops on the road. So that is dramatically gone down. We’re only getting half, and then they were backfilling it with general fund money, at the same time having it go out to the Department of Corrections or DCYF.”

Meanwhile, motor vehicle theft in Seattle reached a 15-year high in 2022, according to the Seattle Police Department (SPD), with more than 45,000 vehicles reportedly stolen. The trend spilled into the new year, as the published data from the Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force reported more than 81 cars were stolen per day in January alone.

Washington ranks third in the nation for the number of vehicles stolen last year, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s 2022 Vehicle Theft Trend Report, released last week.

The report said 46,939 vehicles were stolen in the state in 2022 out of a total of 1,001,967 nationwide.

“It’s always after the fact. ‘Oh, this account doesn’t have the money it’s supposed to. Why is that?’ And then you find out it’s being diverted somewhere else,” Wilson stated. And unless it’s specifically noted in the law, they can’t do it.”

SPD’s 2022 crime report revealed Ballard North, Capitol Hill, North Beacon Hill, Northgate, Queen Anne, and the Squire Park neighborhoods had the largest increase in vehicle thefts from 2022 to 2021.

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“Who made the decision to divert the funds?” asked Rantz.

“I don’t know,” Wilson responded. “I don’t know that we will know, actually. And I mean, the thing is, if it’s this account, then what other accounts?”

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Auto Theft Prevention has funds siphoned while car thefts reach all-time high