Car thieves in King County are staying as busy as usual during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Sixty-one vehicles were stolen during a 48-hour period earlier this week, according to the Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force, which is dedicated to investigating prolific auto theft offenders through multi-agency cooperation.
“Sadly, these numbers are pretty consistent,” said Sgt. Jeff Maijala, a member of the task force, in a Thursday email to the Kent Reporter.
An average of 30 vehicles were stolen daily in King County in January, 23 in February and 24 in March, Maijala said.
In 2019, the averages were similar as well.
There were 9,938 vehicles reported stolen in King County last year, an average of 27 per day.
The city of Kent ranked ninth in the nation in 2018 with 4.98 cars stolen for every 1,000 residents, according to a study by ASecureLife.com using FBI data from annual reports. Oakland topped the rankings with 7.08 thefts per 1,000. The national average is two cars stolen per 1,000 people.
Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said at the time that one reason for the high rate in Kent was that car thieves know the penalties aren’t very stiff in King County.
“One of the more frustrating factors is that the penalties for vehicle theft in King County are extremely low,” Padilla said in a 2018 Kent Reporter article about the high rate. “In the last two years our arrests of vehicle thieves has been some of the highest we have seen in our history, yet criminals arrested and charged with multiple arrests are released within a matter of days. There is very little deterrent in terms of penalties.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, car thieves are among those who might not serve any time in an effort to keep jail populations lower to help avoid a outbreak among inmates. Vehicle theft is considered a nonviolent crime. The city of Kent has reduced its jail population by arresting people but not booking for certain crimes.