Sea-Tac Airport car thefts on the rise ahead of busy summer travel season

Sea-Tac Airport is gearing up for its busy summer travel season, but with the increase in travelers comes a heightened risk of car thefts. Specifically, thieves targeting parked cars have become a growing concern for the airport.

The airport has witnessed a troubling trend where individuals return from their flights to find their cars stolen from the parking garage — a scenario that has become a reality for some unfortunate travelers.

More than 50 million passengers passed through Sea-Tac International Airport last year, with nearly 2 million utilizing the airport's parking garage. Perry Cooper, spokesperson for the airport, emphasized that while car thefts are rare, the airport has seen an uptick in incidents over the last couple of years.

"Ninety-nine point nine percent of people get through the garage without any trouble, but if you're part of that percent, you don't care that everyone else got through," Cooper stated.

Vigilance and technology

The airport has implemented a system of colored lights above parking spots to indicate availability, but these lights also serve a dual purpose. Cooper revealed that cameras embedded within the lights are utilized by the police to track stolen cars.

In the previous year, 173 cars were reported stolen from the airport, a significant increase from 71 the year before. Cooper attributes many of these thefts to simple mistakes, such as leaving cars unlocked or leaving keys inside.

Cooper explained that thieves often exploit the moment when someone is already at the payment kiosk. 

"That's like you're right behind someone who's paying, and they go out as the guard arm goes up and they blow by the attendant without even paying," he described.

Tips to prevent theft

Cooper reminds travelers not to leave valuables in plain sight inside their vehicles, as this could attract thieves. With the summer travel season about to kick off this Memorial Day weekend, the airport is urging vigilance among travelers.

"The challenge with car thieves in a garage this size is you don't see them until after they've somehow departed, so they don't get reported until someone gets back," Cooper emphasized."Criminals are doing their best to avoid us … we’re doing our best to run into them and get them to avoid what their trying to do."

Increased security measures

According to Cooper, approximately 40 cars have been stolen from Sea-Tac Airport this year.

The airport maintains a dedicated unit that patrols the garage 24/7, but Cooper advises travelers to report anything suspicious to authorities immediately.

As travelers prepare for summer getaways, the message from Sea-Tac Airport is clear: remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to ensure a safe and secure travel experience.


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