LACEY, Wash. — Vehicle thefts have increased by 88% since 2021, according to Washington State Patrol data compiled by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC).
Between January and March of 2021, 6,692 cars were stolen across the state of Washington. For that same time period in 2022, 12,569 cars have been stolen.
"It's very helpless, and I feel violated," said Claire Rosenberg, whose car was stolen in March.
Rosenberg said she was working out at the L.A. Fitness in West Seattle when thieves broke into her locker, stole her keys and took off with her royal blue 2015 Hyundai Sonata, with the license plate number BNF4676.
Her car hasn't been found. She believes the thieves targeted her.
"Knowing you're being watched and targeted because you're alone, a woman and vulnerable is a very scary feeling," said Rosenberg.
Car thefts began to spike at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to WASPC data.
If current trends hold, the association estimates car thefts could top 50,000 by the end of the year. There were 26,520 vehicles stolen in 2020, and 31,032 in 2021 in Washington state.
"You know, it's definitely a strange feeling, knowing that there is, you know, somebody using my car in a way that I wouldn't use it," said Colin Glaze. His 1990s Honda was stolen over the weekend from north Seattle.
Glaze's car was returned to him after being found abandoned in Auburn. He believes someone was using his car as shelter.
Glaze said he's increased his insurance and is double-checking his car is locked.
A spokesperson for the WASPC noted thieves most often steal older cars that are less likely to have anti-theft systems. However, newer cars, like Rosenberg's, can still be targeted.
"People are wondering how are they getting into these newer cars? Well, they're stealing their keys," said Rosenberg.
The association alleged a larger spike in car theft followed after a law limiting police pursuits went into effect in July 2021. When asked, the King County Sheriff's Office said it could not attribute a specific reason why vehicle thefts are on the rise.