Car thefts jump in Wash. state after years of steady decline

SEATTLE - The number of auto thefts in Washington state climbed by 5.9 percent last year, reversing a pattern of steady decreases over the past decade, says a new report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

A total of 30,597 vehicles were reported stolen in Washington in 2012, according to the report. That's an average of 84 stolen vehicles per day and more than three vehicles stolen each hour. In 2009, auto theft cost more than $170 million in Washington.

Yakima was the hardest-hit city in the state, with a hefty 27.3 percent jump in auto thefts. Spokane posted an overall 15.7 percent increase in thefts.

The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area saw an increase of 1.3 percent to nearly 16,000 vehicles stolen in 2012.

Other Washington cities with auto theft increases were Bremerton, Silverdale and Vancouver.

According to the FBI, vehicle theft is the nation's No. 1 property crime, costing an estimated $4.3 billion in 2011. The average value of a motor vehicle reported stolen in 2011 was $6,089.

Karl Newman of the Northwest Insurance Council says car owners can cut down on vehicle theft by following a few simple, common-sense rules.

"One of the simplest things you can do to prevent theft is to lock your doors and windows, park in well-lit areas, park in a safe area, make sure your take your keys with you and don't leave things in the vehicle that would be attractive to thieves," Newman stressed in an earlier interview.