Pierce County sees continued rise in vehicle thefts as frustration grows for victims

New numbers show car and truck thefts in Pierce County continue to be a huge problem, leaving business owners frustrated as police are restricted on how to respond by new laws.

The Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force says 798 vehicles were stolen in November, which is two more cars than October and more than double the number from the same time last year.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, 43 cars were stolen in just four days

One auto shop service manager who had two vehicles stolen says the new law limiting officers from pursuing car theft suspects needs to be changed.

Surveillance video shows a burglar stealing keys from Rolf's Import Auto Service in Lakewood on Nov. 24.  Service Manager Kassandra Lane said a man and a second suspect stole a customer's white 2016 Mercedes c class sedan and a clearly-marked company van that they crashed through a fence. 

The Lakewood police chief was on patrol and responded to the break-in and told Lane that his officers had spotted her stolen van, however, they weren't able to make an arrest because of new policing laws that went into effect earlier this year. 

"To think that you could have your company van driving down the street with two criminals that have pockets full of your clients keys totaling probably somewhere near a million dollars worth of inventory and to be told, ‘No, we can’t do anything. They’re running and we have to let them go' was probably the saddest thing I’ve seen in a couple of really good officer’s eyes in my experience because I don’t deal with the law every day," Lane said. 

She was stunned to hear that officers couldn't stop the thieves and return her van and feels the community doesn't fully understand the impact the new policing laws are having on protecting people and their property.

"It puts a lot of people at risk. It puts people in danger.  It's escalating. The crime, I think daily, because as the criminals advance in things they are doing, they know what they can do and what they can’t do," Lane said.

To protect from future break-ins from happening again, Lane has since doubled the number of cameras, floodlights and security monitoring systems at their shop.

If you can identify the suspect, please contact Lakewood Police at (253) 830-5000 or submit an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers of Tacoma-Pierce County by calling 1-800-222-TIPS or text the info through the P3 Tips App on your cell phone. 

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