Car theft on the rise in MLT — and tips to prevent it

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An anti-theft deterrent recommended by police.
An anti-theft deterrent recommended by police.

For long-time Mountlake Terrace resident Carol Freeman, a disturbing trend she has noticed in her neighborhood ultimately hit home for her last week. “Since I’ve lived here in the past 15 years, there have been several stolen cars in my condo parking lot,” she observed.

“My Civic was stolen out of my condo parking spot Friday night.”

Car theft is becoming a bigger problem — not just for Freeman’s condo building, but for many in Mountlake Terrace. According to Mountlake Terrace Police Department statistics, from 2008 to 2012 the city was hit with an average of just over 52 car thefts per year. That number rose to 73 car thefts in 2013.

The 40 percent increase in car theft last year is seen in stark contrast to a 10 percent drop in overall larceny and theft cases during the same period in the city.

And the increase in car theft is continuing in 2014. During the first three months of the year Mountlake Terrace police responded to 24 incidents of car theft, which would mean an annual total of 96 if the rate continues at that pace.

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CAR THEFTS IN MOUNTLAKE TERRACE
2008 — 56
2009 — 45
2010 — 51
2011 — 54
2012 — 55
2013 — 73
2014 — 24 (January through March)
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“Yes, this trend is area-wide,” said Mountlake Terrace Police Commander Doug Hansen of the increase in car theft cases. In fact, Washington ranks tenth in the country for the most stolen and recovered cars in 2013 according to a theft prevention company.

Having her car stolen has Freeman shaken both financially and emotionally. “This has put me in a huge financial crisis, as well as disturbing my peace of mind,” she said. “Is Mountlake Terrace a safe place to live?”

Ironically, Freeman’s Honda is among the top models of automobile stolen in the United States, according to the study released by the LoJack Corporation last month. The Honda Civic ranked No. 2 to the top-stolen vehicle, the Honda Accord, in the 2013 ranking of stolen and recovered vehicle models.

Freeman noted that it was another Honda that had been stolen from her condo parking lot a month ago.

While many have theories as to why some car models are stolen more than others, Hansen said there really isn’t any overriding explanation. “Thieves target specific cars because they like that type of vehicle, some are easier to steal … there are as many reasons as there are people,” he said.

The Mountlake Terrace Police Department advises that there are ways to help prevent car theft, and offers these tips:
• Lock all car doors
• Roll up the windows
• Remove your personal belongs
• Park in well-lighted areas
• Park in highly visible spots
• Use anti-theft devices
• Don’t leave cars running unattended
• Never leave keys in the ignition
• Remove all personal property
• Etch the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on your windows

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