Car thefts in Auburn alone hits 120 in January

A rash of stolen cars is prompting neighbors to take action on their own.  So far this month, 120 have been reported stolen in Auburn, according to Auburn police. A spokesperson said car thefts in the triple-digits has been the new norm for months.

The situation is similar in Renton. Police said on Friday that they’ve had 39 reported vehicle thefts and attempted thefts over the past four days alone.

Renton resident Kaydra Kerr had her Hyundai stolen on Wednesday. It was found on Thursday by a passerby who noticed the car in an alley with all the windows down. By Friday, it was in a tow yard.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Kerr said. Whoever smashed her window used the viral TikTok phone charger method to steal her car and damaged the steering column.

“The tow truck driver was trying to use a screw driver to start my car and couldn’t get it started,” she said. A passerby found it abandoned  shortly after KIRO 7 interviewed her on Thursday. She’s insured but there’s a huge backup on car repairs.

“The parts are on back order. I won’t even get into a shop until March,” she said. Meanwhile, she said she had to buy a bike to get around.

Renton police are once again urging people to get steering wheel locks on their cars, saying that cars parked at apartment complexes are being hit particularly hard.

It’s a similar situation in Auburn, with the 120 cars stolen so far in January.

Auburn resident Nathan Jackson says someone’s been coming to his neighborhood to steal mail, so he put up some surveillance cameras.

Thursday night, he noticed the same car back in the neighborhood and decided to confront the man.

“He’s jiggling on those (car) handles, and that’s when I say, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’” Jackson said.

At one point things got tense.

“He kind of comes at me - see how he is like almost going to assault me,” Jackson said, pointing at the video. “I backed up against the car and held my hand behind my back, and said, ‘I have something bigger than you, bud,’” he said.

Jackson says the man ran off and left neighborhood. Auburn police responded and confirmed the car was stolen.

But, Jackson learned police wouldn’t have been able to pursue the suspect. The law now only allows officers to chase when they have probable cause of a violent crime, or sex crime.

“It made me sad. It made me sad for every one of us,” Jackson said.

Now Jackson says the neighborhood is taking the role of safety into their own hands, starting a neighborhood watch to look out for suspects.

“They’re going to feel like kings of the world and be able to do whatever they want. I just want to say, not in this neighborhood, because we’re all watching out,” Jackson said.

KIRO 7 also reached out to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and got a similar message. Sgt. Darren Moss said they’re also dealing with a spike in car thefts, but a bigger concern was that when deputies try to pull over someone with no plates, or a stolen vehicle, the suspects just drive off.

Moss said Thursday night alone, there were five cases of suspects taking off from deputies.

The changes in pursuit law were put into effect in 2021 and are currently being assessed by lawmakers.