Seattle drone pilot helps track down stolen cars

Fed up and frustrated with the increase in stolen cars across the Puget Sound region, a West Seattle man is taking matters into his own hands. He’s using his drone to connect car theft victims to their stolen vehicles.

Due to safety concerns, he wants to use only his first name, Tony.

“I think people appreciate that someone is actually doing something to look, see and try to find their stolen property,” said Tony. “Unfortunately, its going to take us citizens to do the work that the cops can’t.”

Tony says he flew his drone Thursday over a chop shop operating in plain sight, beneath the First Avenue Bridge in Seattle. From 800 feet up, he captured a number of aerial photos.

“I saw guys walking around with Sawzalls, angle griders,” said Tony. “Many cars were there with no license plates, that were completely disassembled, engines missing, hoods off.”

Tony posted pictures from this flight on a Facebook group page called “PNW Stolen Cars.”

Minutes later in Renton, Jessica Orth and her father, Robert Orth, saw the post and instantly made a connection.

That same day on Thursday, Robert Orth stopped by the Fred Meyer on Rainier Avenue South in Renton to run a quick errand. Orth says he was inside no more than 10 or 20 minutes. When he came back out, he was stunned to find his car missing. Robert contacted police and had his social media-savvy daughter post on the “PNW Stolen Cars” page.

“In this situation you have a veteran that’s 80 years old, that depends on a vehicle for his independence,” said Jessica Orth. “Just to go to the store, doctors’appointments, stuff like that.”

This isn’t the first time Robert’s car has been stolen. In November 2020, it was taken from his senior living facility in Renton. With the help of Jessica and that very same Facebook page. he was able to get it back. However, this time they’re not so sure there will be a happy ending.

“He didn’t deserve this, he didn’t deserve this at all,” said Jessica Orth.

Jessica and Robert Orth are grateful to Tony for locating their car, but are disappointed authorities have been unable to help them get it back. All three want to know why the city of Seattle hasn’t cracked down on what looks like a massive operation in the Duwamish Valley.

“Surely, the South Precinct or whoever is responsible knows about this place,” said Robert. “Something has to be done, not just for us and some old 1991 Honda Accord, but for the future victims.”