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Social media helping to reunite car theft victims with vehicles

LACEY, Wash. – Car thefts are up nearly 20% in Washington state and the FBI says more than 32,000 were stolen in 2016 alone.

Police in Thurston County said they are seeing a recent spike in car prowls and thefts in their region. Investigators said the crooks are targeting late model Honda Accords and Civics.

Social media is also now part of the crime-fighting as strangers are now sharing information that can sometimes help police recover stolen cars.

“You never know, you might help someone out,” said Dan Glidden.

Glidden says his Facebook page, Pacific Northwest Stolen Cars, shows a running list of people desperate to find their ride.

He said the page has been active only four years, and today more than 12,000 eyeballs are potentially on the look-out for stolen vehicles.

“I would say at least 20 cars have been found through the webpage,” said Glidden.

“It’s so nice to have eyes everywhere,” said Jamie Pruitt.

Pruitt said she posted pictures of her stolen Toyota to Glidden’s page and it took police only 12 hours to recover her vehicle.

“I think they would have continued to prowl the area and they would have trashed it and ditched it,” she said.

Lacey Police say they have seen a recent spike in car prowls and thefts in their jurisdiction and surrounding areas of Thurston County lately. Detective Jonathan Mason says crooks are mainly targeting 1990’s Hondas because they’re easier to steal.

“The locks get worn down, which makes them a little bit more susceptible to being stolen by having a crook maybe with shaved keys,” he said.

Mason says there are some steps you can take to make sure your car doesn’t get swiped.

“If you can keep it in your garage, keep it in front of the house where it has good surveillance or maybe get a steering wheel lock,” he said.

The problem was so bad last spring in Olympia, the city began handing out free wheel locks to help curb the thefts.

“This is all just volunteer basis,” said Glidden.

Glidden says social media can be a big help in catching car thieves but it’s not a replacement for law enforcement.

“You still want to call the cops,” he said. “If you have any issues you want to make them do the final call. Don’t chase or get yourself hurt.”

Plus, he’s driving a Honda Accord – one of the cars crooks are hunting for.

His ride has an alarm and he says he keeps valuables out of site, but he hopes he never has to post images of his own vehicle to his Facebook page.

“I’m creator of the site,” he said. “Hopefully I won’t have to use the site but if I do I will know how it works.”