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Mukilteo auto thefts on the rise, WA has second highest car theft rate nationwide 

MUKILTEO, Wash., November 24, 2023—Mukilteo is on pace to surpass its 2022 number for auto thefts according to crime data from the Mukilteo Police Department.

One of Mukilteo’s newest Council members, Mike Dixon, lives in a quiet Harbour Pointe neighborhood within walking distance of two public schools—Kamiak High School and Columbia Elementary School. On the morning of Halloween, his son started his car to warm it up then walked back inside to grab his bag, and when he returned outside just five minutes later, his car was gone.

“It was literally on the street, in the cul-de-sac, right in front of my house,” Dixon told the Lynnwood Times. “It must have been a very coordinated, aggressive, action where they were seriously prowling.”

The Dixons reported the stolen vehicle immediately to Mukilteo Police who showed up shortly after 7 a.m.

About one week later, Dixon got a call from Mukilteo PD informing him that they had located his son’s vehicle in North Everett by the Safeway on Broadway. The vehicle was drivable but “trashed out,” Dixon said, with marijuana and drug paraphernalia littered about, the license plates along with all of the property inside stolen including a portable car battery which was a Christmas gift, and house keys. Dixon had to change the locks to his home at an out-of-pocket cost of approximately $800.

The vehicle was filed as a total loss with the insurance company given the presence of drug paraphernalia and “fentanyl being what it is today,” Dixon said, not wanting to take any life-threatening risks for his teenage son’s safety.

The WASPC’s latest annual crime report, published late 2022, documents 36 auto thefts in Mukilteo during 2021 and 47 in 2022 — an increase of 30.6%. So far this year alone, 46 vehicles have been reported stolen as of November 12, 2023, according to crime data provided to the Lynnwood Times from the Mukilteo Police.

The map below shows the locations of all reported auto thefts in Mukilteo from 2021 to November 12, 2023. Red markers denote auto theft locations in 2021, yellow markers denote 2022 locations and purple markers reflect locations in 2023. Click on the map to zoom in/out and filter by year.

In looking at the data, car thieves are preying on Mukilteo neighborhoods around Patty’s Eggnest in the north to the south end of Harbour Pointe Boulevard. Residents in Old Town—Olympic View Middle School to the Waterfront—have pretty much been immune from the rash of vehicle thefts. In 2023 there have been only two reported incidents (4.3%), five in 2022 (10.6%), and again two in 2021 (5.6%).

A multi-year cluster of reported stolen vehicles plague the neighborhoods surrounding Patty’s Eggnest and the industrial area between Chennault Beach and Russell roads. The remaining vehicle thefts (approximately 50%) appear scattered deep inside of the relatively safe residential neighborhoods of Harbour Pointe and 92nd Street.

Stolen vehicles appear to be reported in the morning (peak in 2023) when residents are possibly leaving for work, in the afternoon around lunchtime, and then a few hours later between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

According to Mukilteo PD, stolen vehicles are typically used temporarily by criminals to get them to where they need to be. Vehicles are often abandoned or “dumped” shortly after they are stolen and, in some cases, returned to owners in poor condition with trash thrown about in the interior. 

Nathan Fabia, Crime Prevention Officer for the Mukilteo Police Department, informed the Lynnwood Times, although auto thefts are increasing regionally, it’s difficult to pinpoint if the thefts are connected to a broader auto theft ring or organized crime syndicate.

“[The increase in car thefts] can be due to various reasons. We are aware that criminals may target certain vehicle makes and models and that there have been social media trends regarding vehicle thefts,” said Fabia. “In my experience, these types of thefts can also be crimes of opportunity. We have seen vehicle owners who leave their vehicle running and unattended to get the car warmed up, and it’s stolen by someone. We know that in these cold winter months that this is common, but we would urge against it.”

Since auto thefts often result in a multiagency response—a car stolen in Mukilteo could be later found in Everett for example—and the vehicle is often found abandoned, it’s difficult for police agencies to track how many thefts lead to arrests, the demographics of those stealing vehicles, and whether they are repeat suspects, Fabia continued.

In 2022, there were 46,939 auto thefts reported throughout Washington state according to National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) —a 31% jump from 2021. As of September, the Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force reported 31,011 vehicles stolen so far for the year in the state—that is 110 vehicles per day!

mukilteo auto thefts
Auto thefts in Washington State as of September 30, 2023. SOURCE: Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force.

Per capita, Washington state ranks second in the nation behind Colorado at a rate of 693.3 vehicles stolen per 100,000 people. In total number of vehicles stolen, Washington ranks third behind California (202,685) and Texas (105,015), two states with populations five and four times that of Washington respectively.

Thieves have favorite vehicle brands. Nearly all the top 20 vehicles stolen in Washington in January were models of Kia, Hyundai, Honda, and Ford trucks. The NICB data from 2022 lists the following as the most stolen vehicles in Washington state:

  1. 1999 Ford Pickup (full size) – 4,121 thefts
  2. 2000 Honda Civic – 3,267 thefts
  3. 997 Honda Accord – 2,613 thefts
  4. 2004 Chevrolet Pickup (full size) – 1,575 thefts
  5. 2001/2000 Honda CR-V – 1,338 thefts
  6. 1997 Ford Pickup (small size) – 858 thefts
  7. 2007 Ford Camry – 791 thefts
  8. 1998 Subaru Legacy – 771 thefts
  9. 2001 Dodge Pickup (full size) – 744 thefts
  10. 2018 Hyundai Elantra – 698 thefts

Last year, U.S. consumers paid $8 billion in insurance premiums to repair or replace their stolen vehicle reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Comprehensive insurance coverage, also referred to as “Other Than Collision” coverage, is the only coverage available to help auto theft victims recover the cost to repair or replace their vehicle.

The Mukilteo Police provided the following tips to reduce your risk of being the victim of auto theft:

  • Always lock your vehicle
  • Do not leave keys or fobs in your vehicle
  • Do not leave valuables in the vehicle
  • Park in a well-lit area, or a garage if available
  • Utilize a steering wheel lock
  • Never leave a vehicle running unattended
  • Always be aware of your surroundings

Additionally, always activate your vehicle’s security or alarm system when parked. Steering wheel locks are strongly recommended for owners of Hyundai and Kia models. Even though your software may have been upgraded, the Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force suggests using a steering wheel lock as a visual deterrent to prevent a shattered window and a damaged ignition before the thief realizes the Kia or Hyundai can’t be stolen.

Other tips we found were knowing your vehicle’s license plate number and having other basic information on hand to expedite the reporting process. Officers will gather the information and broadcast it to their partners and surrounding agencies. Once 911 is called, the vehicle will then be entered into the police department’s stolen vehicle system. Having a GPS tracker, such as an Air Tag or Tile, in your vehicle will aid law enforcement in finding your vehicle if it does get stolen.

“When the vehicle is eventually located, officers have received training to safely recover the vehicle and notify the registered owner,” said Fabia. “We take these types of calls very seriously and will always strive to provide the best service we can to our community.

NICB reports more than 85% of passenger vehicles reported stolen in 2022 were recovered by law enforcement or other means. Approximately 34% of reported stolen vehicles are recovered on the same day as the theft, and 45% are recovered within the first 48 hours.

Fabia recommends that if an individual witnesses their car being stolen, not to engage as a confrontation can be dangerous and the suspect can possibly be armed. He asks that residents call 911.

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