We reported earlier this week about the massive surge in auto thefts in WA state, in the City of Kennewick, auto theft is up 412 percent! 

 What's one big cause that most people are overlooking?

Here's the condensed version. In WA state a package of new laws that began in July 2021 has essentially prevented Law Enforcement officers from 'chasing' auto theft suspects. An officer has to have probable cause (knowledge or evidence) that the auto thief is either drunk or is currently threatening the safety of a person or persons.

 

Stolen car crash Benton County (BSCO)
Stolen car crash Benton County (BSCO)
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That has 'encouraged' criminals to steal a lot more cars, knowing it will be easier.

What other factors are not helping?

According to multiple sources, even the New York Times did a good piece on auto theft a year ago!  Believe it or not, due to the COVID pandemic, and people trying to avoid 'contact' with others, a LOT more of us have left our engines running when we are dropping people off, buzzing in and out of a convenience store, or otherwise trying to hurry up with our tasks. Crooks notice this. How many car thefts in Tri-Cities were from somebody who "just left the engine running for a minute while they were in the store?" 

 

This car stolen out of Pasco, still not recovered (PPD)
This car stolen out of Pasco, still not recovered (PPD)
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Another reason? Sloppiness with key fobs.  Police data shows many people leave their spare key fob in the cupholder, glove box, or elsewhere in their console. Couple that with an unlocked vehicle, and car thieves have it easy.

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The days of hotwiring a vehicle are pretty much over unless it's an older car without a computerized brain. Did you know that nearly every US-built vehicle after 2007 has what's called an immobilizer attached to the engine? Sometimes it's fixed to the starter or fuel pump.

  An immobilizer will not allow a vehicle to even start without the use of the chip in the key fob. One such kit is pictured below (Amazon.com).

 

Anti-theft immobilizer kit (Amazon.com)
Anti-theft immobilizer kit (Amazon.com)
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But if you don't lock your vehicle, roll up the windows, if you leave your spare fob in the vehicle (they can break the glass and rummage for it) you're asking for your rig to be stolen.

These kinds of safety 'fails' by theft victims have always been happening, but now that Law Enforcement is handcuffed from fighting it, the problem has exploded, focusing new light on what people are NOT doing to prevent auto theft.

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