BONNEY LAKE, Wash. — One day of auto theft-emphasis patrols in Pierce County resulted in 15 recovered vehicles, six arrests, two recovered firearms and the confiscation of approximately 1,000 suspected fentanyl pills.
On Friday, the Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force conducted a multi-agency auto theft emphasis patrol in Pierce County. The agency worked with Tacoma Police, Lakewood Police, Sumner Police, Washington State Patrols and the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.
"We know since the laws have changed, auto thefts have gone up along with burglaries and armed robberies and take your pick on any one of those crimes, they're using a stolen vehicle to commit that offense," said Public Information Officer for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, Darren Moss.
In Pierce County, Moss said there's been a 110 percent increase in stolen vehicle in the past five years. The department attributes the rise in part to policing laws that prevent law enforcement from pursuing vehicles. Moss said the law is no secret to criminals.
"They're ahead of the game. We've got to be upping our game and figuring new ways to try to combat the new crime wave that we're seeing with stolen vehicles," said Moss.
Stolen vehicles are being used to commit other crimes. During the emphasis patrols, the Auto Task Force highlighted three cases.
A Chevrolet Camaro was stolen during a residential burglary in Parkland. The driver fled and resisted arrest but was eventually taken into custody. A stolen Honda CRV sped off after Tacoma Police attempted a traffic stop. The car came to a stop after becoming disabled from driving on train tracks. Officers say the passenger in the car had approximately 1,000 suspected fentanyl pills. The third case involved a Chrysler Town and Country that was stolen during a carjacking in Pierce County. Authorities detained six juveniles, which included the 12-year-old driver who was in possession of a .45 handgun.
A Washington law requires juveniles to talk to an attorney before police can question them. Moss said because of that law, deputies couldn't ask what the kids were doing, but he worries it could be gang-related.
"We have a lot of gang activity that's related to younger kids. A lot of our drive-by shootings and armed robberies, we're seeing young juveniles committing these crimes," said Moss.
The 12-year-old was booked into Remann Hall Juvenile Detention Center. The other juveniles were released to their parents. Law enforcement can hold the 12-year-old accountable, but Moss believes there's a bigger question that needs to be asked.
"As a society, as a community, we have to figure out what led one of our 12-year-old kids to do something like this?" said Moss.