For many years, Washington State ranked among the top 10 of all states for reported car thefts. Some may consider car theft a low-level crime, especially when compared to more violent offenses, but I understood that this crime was an epidemic that was deeply felt in our autodependent society and helped launch our office’s Car Theft Initiative (CTI).
CTI gave top priority to this pernicious crime by partnering with police to aggressively investigate and prosecute the “top 10” car thieves in each community. Those efforts were successful. In just three short years, reported auto theft in King County was down by 53%.
In 2005, there were approximately 17,700 reported car thefts in King County. In 2012, there were only 8,900 reported car thefts – a reduction of 88400. The resulting savings to citizens, insurance companies, and the overall improvement to public safety have been enormous.
Since 2009 I have served on the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority (WATPA), a statewide organization tasked with preventing and reducing the number of motor vehicle thefts and associated crimes in Washington State. WATPA also provides financial support to local governments by awarding grant money to fund programs and prosecutors focused on reducing the number of motor vehicle thefts in Washington.
I also successfully lobbied the State Legislature to adopt new sentencing laws that send car thieves to prison after their third car theft conviction. Under the old sentencing laws, it took seven convictions to send a car thief to prison, and a car thief faced a maximum sentence of 12 months. Under our new sentencing laws, it now takes only three convictions to send a car thief to prison, and the sentence has increased to 17-22 months. For car thieves who have four or more convictions, they now face 4-5 year prison sentences.
I am now encouraging CTI to replicate its success with car theft and focus on prolific car prowlers and repeat burglars.
In 2010 I replicated the CTI model by forming the Repeat Burglar Initiative (RBI). We launched RBI in response to a growing concern within our community about residential and commercial burglary, an area of crime that significantly affects the quality of life for King County residents. RBI works closely with the CTI team and various police networks throughout King County to target and aggressively investigate and prosecute our region’s most prolific burglars.