KIRO NEWSRADIO

‘There’s no money’: Thieves break into driving school twice in last 6 months

Sep 21, 2023, 6:44 PM

Image: A Seattle Police Department vehicle...

A Seattle Police Department vehicle (Photo courtesy of the Seattle Police Department)

(Photo courtesy of the Seattle Police Department)

While cannabis stores and vape shops remain squarely in the crosshairs of thieves – who sometimes have used cars to smash through walls – staff at Rainier Driving School said they are the latest target. And they’re confused.

Surveillance video provided to KIRO Newsradio showed the two burglaries six months apart, the more recent footage timestamped Sept. 5. In the first video, dated March 11, a person is seen breaking the glass door to escape after employees say he raided their cash register. The suspected thieves enter the frame in the second video after breaking the deadbolt on the newly replaced door. Both videos show suspects wearing hoods and masks.

More from Sam Campbell: Wedgwood master mail key stolen, theft spreads to another Seattle neighborhood

Workers at the school off Rainier Avenue South said they never kept much cash on location. They estimated the thieves could not have gotten away with more than $100 — far less than the estimated cost of replacing their glass door with a solid metal one.

“There’s no money in the (till),” Anastasia Bihdan said. “So that’s it. They’re just bringing the damage.”

Despite the suspects being caught on camera, the King County Sheriff’s Office said no fingerprints were initially found at the scene. No other details were offered about the case which is still under investigation.

Bihdan, a driving test examiner who immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine, said she didn’t expect public safety to be a concern for a driving school, and she’s disappointed with what she calls a lack of action from authorities.

“It’s been very shocking and disheartening to find out that we’re not really safe here,” she said. “We’re not really protected. It seems like it’s a trend here and it’s pretty normal. The police (don’t) do anything about it.”

Multiple nearby businesses told KIRO Newsradio they, too, have been robbed recently — some with thieves using cars to smash through walls.

A neighbor called 911 after hearing an alarm go off and seeing a car had crashed into the building around 3:37 a.m., the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) said. By the time deputies got there, KCSO said the suspects left, but the car was left at the scene. The sheriff’s office said when they contacted the owner of the car, they discovered it had been stolen, but had gone unreported to that point.

The group of four suspects, who were all wearing masks, were last seen getting into a black sedan. Authorities released no further description.

More on Washington cannabis stores: State suggests cashless apps for cannabis stores to avoid robbery

Location may matter to the thieves

Just a couple of blocks away at Clutch Cannabis, an employee said thieves also used a car to plow through their lobby one month prior. Besides the cost and logistical complications with replacing storefronts, walls and doors, the employee said cannabis stores across the city are struggling to compensate for the continued crime.

Some suspect the location of Rainier Avenue South burglaries – which KIRO Newsradio learned is just south of Seattle police jurisdiction and too far north for Renton police operations — may mean thieves are trying to find holes in law enforcement coverage.

Instead, the businesses lie in a small portion of unincorporated King County, leaving investigations largely up to the sheriff’s office.

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‘There’s no money’: Thieves break into driving school twice in last 6 months