Renton police warn of alarming rise in auto thefts

RENTON, Wash. — The country is seeing the highest car theft numbers since 2008.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, nearly half a million cars were stolen in the first half of 2022.

Car thefts are also up across Washington state. The Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority says there has been an 88% increase in car thefts this year.

KIRO 7′s Briseida Holguin talked with Renton police about the trends they are seeing.

Detective Robert Onishi with the Renton Police Department says as of Monday, 994 cars have been stolen — that number is up significantly compared to the last two years.

This time last year, 771 cars were reported stolen; in 2020 that number was even lower at 579.

Sharoyce Ticeson’s car was recovered in Des Moines last week, after being stolen in Renton on Oct. 22.

She says she literally fainted when she found out, because her car is the only mode of transportation for her and her son.

“I’m pressing the button and there’s no car, like there’s no sound and he slowly starts to walk over to me and I just start shaking my head no, no, no and then he was like, ‘What do you drive?’ And I said, ‘A Kia.’ He said most likely if your car is not here, your car was stolen,” said Ticeson.

A police officer told Ticeson her car was one of several vehicles stolen.

“I felt violated, kind of abused that I work hard for everything I have,” said Ticeson.

Renton police says that historically, about 50% of cars stolen used to be Hondas and Acuras. This year, they say thieves are targeting Ford white vans and super duty trucks, but during the month of October, they noticed a different pattern.

“For just this last month, October, when we had 134 stolen vehicles, 56 of those were Hunyadi or Kia products,” said Onishi.

Onishi blames the TikTok Kia challenge, which essentially reveals how to hot-wire these cars.

“It turns out Hunyadi and Kia did not put in an immobilizer system into their cars until the 2022 product line. … Immobilizer systems which is essentially your car is smart enough not to turn on the fuel pump if someone starts it with anything other than the actual key,” said Onishi.

Ticeson says she’s looking at about $3,000 worth of repairs.

“You can actually see here is the ignition, and then there’s like a piece here and that’s how they start the car,” said Ticeson.

One of the back windows was smashed and her son’s booster seat was stolen, along with a few other items.

“Yes there’s glass there, there’s all of that, that’s why my son rides in the front. … I don’t feel safe, I feel like at any moment my car can be stolen, I actually had to purchase a club for my steering wheel,” said Ticeson.

Onishi says as we get into the colder months, the police are seeing more vehicles being stolen because people tend to leave their cars unattended while they are warming up. He says the police are now getting about a dozen cases a week.