Every day, at least 20 people are likely to discover their cars missing from the streets, driveways, or parking lots of Seattle, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Despite a 17 percent drop in car thefts from 2005 to 2006, the Seattle area still ranks sixth in the nation for the most stolen cars. Las Vegas is highest. Areas with high commuter rates and unattended parking lots — especially those with low lighting — tend to be especially hard hit. Most car thieves strike in the hours immediately after midnight. Drugs, unlocked doors, and Asian-made cars from the ’80s or ’90s arel factors that come up frequently in car theft investigations.
As auto manufacturers make it harder for thieves to steal cars, a new kind of criminal is emerging, said Frank Zangar of the Western States Auto Theft Investigators’ Northwest chapter. “We’re seeing a rise in the expertise,” said Zangar, a retired state trooper. “The type of criminal who steals the newer stuff is more of a professional.” In April, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill that creates severe penalties for repeat car thieves. Before the law, a car thief would have had to be convicted seven times to face more than a year in jail. Now a car thief with three convictions could be sentenced to between 17 and 22 months in jail. “We can go out and arrest these guys until we’re blue in the face, but until there is some big penalty, they don’t care,” said a Seattle police officer.