‘The bad guys aren’t staying home’: Officials say car thefts are up during quarantine

Data pix.

SEATTLE -- While we all try to slow the spread, unfortunately it doesn't seem certain crimes are slowing down at all.

From Monday to Wednesday of this week, 61 cars were stolen out of King County alone. Police want to remind you: check on your car, especially if you haven't driven it in days.

The Puget Sound Auto Theft Task force said it best: "Bad guys aren't staying home."

Now, law enforcement is having to try to keep up with car thieves and prowlers who are taking advantage of our new normal.

Seattle Police have seen a 24 percent increase in auto theft, with 300 thefts in the last month. But here's the really startling part: some of the victims didn't know their cars were stolen in the first place until police notified them.

With so many of us staying home, we may think our cars safe and sound outside, but that's not always the case.

"It's so creepy and icky, that they were so brazen," says Merrill Ames, who had his sister-in-law's car stolen from his Seatac storage lot last  month. "It's sentimental because of all the happy memories and outings that took place because of that."

The truck was ultimately recovered, but the suspect who took off with the car in broad daylight is still at large.

What happened to Don Ryan at his auto sales and rental lot in Port Orchard takes car theft to another level.

"It's like heyday for thieves at this point...it's just devastating on top of everything that's happened," Ryan says.

Ryan's business was burglarized, and four cars were stolen right off the lot. He's gotten three back, though damaged, and he's still hoping to find his missing red KIA Sportage.

The suspect caught on camera was arrested thanks to a Washington's Most Wanted viewer tip, but the alleged thief didn't stay behind bars for long. He was quickly released as part of an effort to keep social distancing in jails.

That brings up a whole other issue, especially for car prowlers: it can feel like there's no immediate consequence for their actions right now, as most jails aren't booking them.

"Everybody has to rethink everything at this moment, as far as they lock it up, how they secure it, how they monitor it, and how to keep this from happening to them," Ryan says.

Ryan has since upgraded his security system, spending $25,000 on the extra security, despite times being tough with no income.

He is staying vigilant until business and regular life resumes. Law enforcement says vigilance is key, and remember: just because you're staying home, doesn't mean the same goes for criminals.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.