Our Northwest

Car theft in Yakima still a problem, report shows

Thursday, July 14, 2016by  Jon Osterberg
Once again, Yakima ranks among the nation's cities with the most vehicle theft, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
     In its latest report, the NICB ranks Yakima 19th out of 100 metropolitan areas, based on per-capita theft in 2015.
     Other Northwest locales include the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area, ranked No. 20 for car theft; Spokane, No. 25; and the greater Portland area, No. 54.
     Of the 10 worst cities for vehicle theft, eight of them are in California, along with Albuquerque and Pueblo, Colo.
     I've often wondered why Yakima, my wife's hometown, consistently suffers from high auto theft. Yakima's low point came in 2008, when it held the No. 3 slot nationally.
     Yakima police Capt. Jeff Schneider told the Yakima Herald-Republic that detectives there deal with the same criminals over and over.
     "You see small numbers of people responsible for a huge number of thefts," he said.
     Myrle Carner, director of media and public relations for Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound, offered insight into the challenge Yakima faces, saying most auto thieves don't get caught until they've stolen seven vehicles, on average.
     "And even if they get caught, the cases seldom go to court," Carner said. "A lot of the vehicles are stolen from someone who knows the owner, and the owner is reluctant to follow through with charges." 
     Carner also explained a mindset among thieves that auto theft really isn't a crime because, after all, the owners have insurance and they don't really lose anything,
     "Nothing could be further from the truth – a lot of Yakima-area drivers don't even carry insurance," he said.
     Capt. Schneider also noted many Yakima drivers have a wintertime habit of starting cars, then leaving them unattended while they warm up.  PEMCO terms such vehicles "puffers," easy targets for thieves, and warns drivers against that risky practice.

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