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The time is now! Local mayors and law enforcement plea for help

A public safety message from your police chiefs, mayors, sheriff and elected officials | Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash., September 22, 2022—A video released today by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office featuring local mayors, police chiefs and county council members seek the public’s help in urging their Washington State Representative to allow police more authority to engage in pursuits.

In 2021 the Washington State Legislature banned most police pursuits with the passage of ESHB-1054 along party lines that, according to the video, has emboldened criminals and lead to an 88% increase in auto theft in Washington state.

The 5 minute 15 second video opens with Sheriff Adam Fortney sharing the aftermath local law enforcement is dealing with on the field. From vehicles being used as weapons assaulting police officers to officers being dragged by vehicles. Washington Association of Police and Sheriffs Executive Director Steven Strachan said that lawmakers “made the specific decision to continue to allow for blatant disregard for the law” after mayors and law enforcement asked for help.

“My fellow Snohomish County mayors and I share a deep and growing concern for the safety of our communities due to the tide of rising crime we are seeing,” Everrett Mayor Cassie Franklin says in the video. She was joined by Mayor Barbara Tolbert of Arlington, Mayor Brett Gailey of Lake Stevens, Mayor Jon Nehring of Marysville and Mayor Russell Witta of Sultan.

Violent crime in Washington State increased 12.3% in 2021, according to a report released in July by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), while the number of commissioned officers able to respond decreased 4.4% (a 495 net loss statewide). Washington State retains its ranking as the lowest in the nation for commissioned officers per thousand residents. Local officials criticize this exodus on the laws passed by the state legislature and are concerned that victims will twice suffer – initially from the incident then from the inability to apprehend the perpetrator.

“Fewer police officers means less ability to provide justice for victims,” Edmonds Police Chief Michelle Bennett shares in the video.

“There is a victim behind every one of these crimes,” Sheriff Fortney added. “They need us to take action so their voices can be heard.”

Councilman Nate Nehring criticized the State vs. Blake decision of February 25, 2021, which ruled that the statute governing simple possession of control substances as unconstitutional, making it difficult to get those suffering from drug addiction into treatment.

County Councilman Sam Low shared that the state of New Jersey reversed its restrictions on police pursuits earlier this year as a result of sharp increase in auto thefts.

According to a National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) press release in March, “cities across the United States have experienced an unprecedented rise in auto thefts and carjackings in recent years.” NICB, which collects data on auto thefts nationally, found that car thefts nationwide increased by 16.5% in 2021 compared to 2019 and nearly 29% compared to 2017. 

According to the King 5 segment in the video, in the first two months of 2021, car owners in Washington state reported 4,552 vehicle thefts, however in 2022, that number is 8,320 within the same period. The law restricting pursuits make it more difficult to apprehend car thieves and the criminals know this.

With car insurance rates going up in general, the potential for increase in auto insurance premiums may soon add to the financial burden many are experiencing during the post-COVID recession. Insurers treat an auto theft claim as if the vehicle was totaled. Comprehensive coverage will typically pay the actual cash value of your car, minus one’s deductible.

Overall, the NICB reports that there were 880,595 vehicle thefts nationwide in 2020, about one stolen vehicle every 36 seconds, up from 794,019 in 2019.

Top 10 Stolen Vehicles
 Rank Make & Model2020 TheftsMost Common Model Year Stolen
 1Ford Full-Size Pickup 44,014 2006
 2Chevrolet Full-Size Pickup 40,968 2004
 3Honda Civic 34,144 2000
 4Honda Accord 30,814 1997
 5Toyota Camry 16,915 2019
 6Nissan Altima 14,668 2020
 7GMC Full Size Pickup 13,016 2005
 8Toyota Corolla 12,515 2020
 9Honda CR-V 12,309 2000
 10 Dodge Full Size Pickup 11,991 2001
Source: Hot Wheels: NICB Annual Auto Theft Report, National Insurance Crime Bureau, October 2021.

All persons in the video urge the public to contact their state legislature at Leg.wa.gov/legislature or call 800-562-6000 to demand justice to victims and change the laws to allow police more authority to engage in pursuits.

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