CENTRALIA, Wash. — A voluntary sticker placed in the rear-window of your car would give Centralia police permission to pull you over between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Even if you didn’t break the law.
Police launched the Centralia Combating Auto Theft Program Tuesday. This is how it works:
Residents of the Lewis County town go to city hall and tell police they want to sign up for the free auto theft prevention program.
They are given a sticker for their car, and are asked to sign a piece of paper “allowing law enforcement officers to stop their vehicles between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., based solely upon the vehicle having a CCAT sticker in the back window,” police said.
No speeding. No swerving. Just stopping you if you have the sticker.
If police are on patrol and see a car with a sticker out in the early morning hours, they pull it over. Police will then check to make sure the person driving the car is the registered owner.
The whole idea is to stop thieves during their busiest hours, Centralia Police Commander Patrick Fitzgerald said. Either they’ll notice the sticker in the car windows and not steal the car, or be caught once they do.
“It’s a deterrent program,” Fitzgerald said. “But it’s also hopefully a method of apprehension.”
Centralia has seen a spike in auto theft in recent years, Fitzgerald said. Most of the car thefts occur in the early morning, and were hard to catch unless police actually spot thieves breaking into cars.
“Generally these thefts weren’t being reported until the owner of the vehicle woke up or noticed their car wasn’t there,” Fitzgerald said.
Though the Centralia Police Department is the only law office administrating the program, Fitzgerald said he notified nearby jurisdictions to be on the lookout for cars with stickers.
The program was modeled after similar programs in New York, California and Florida. Fitzgerald said it was once used in Washington state, but discontinued for an unknown reason.
One potential problem, Fitzgerald said, is people sell their cars and forget to take the sticker off.
“There’s a stipulation on the form that you have to remove the sticker once you sell the car,” Fitzgerald said.
Some interesting legal scenarios pop up with the sticker. If a person who legally owns the car is driving in the early morning and is pulled over, they are subject to other infractions. For instance, if a officer notices alcohol on their breath when stopped for a sticker, they are “subject to those penalties,” Fitzgerald said.
Q13 News reached out to the ACLU to see if the group had heard of the sticker program. Officials with the group didn’t comment.
A number of people have already signed up for the voluntary program.
Because in the end, it’s just a way to give car owners peace of mind while their car sits in the driveway late night, Fitzgerald said.