State Senate passes vehicle theft bill

The State Senate unanimously passed legislation Feb. 29 to curb a recent rise in vehicle thefts and target repeat offenders.

The bill, already passed by the House, now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

House Bill 2354 will give law enforcement more time to investigate auto theft by extending the statute of limitations from three years to six years for trafficking in stolen vehicles and auto parts, according to a media release from the State House of Representatives.

“This is an important change for law enforcement,” said State Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, who sponsored the House version of the bill. She noted that detectives can spend years working hard to investigate these crimes, so they need additional time to arrest and prosecute these complex auto-theft rings.

Last summer, the Seattle Times reported that auto-theft rose 18.8 percent in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area in 2010 compared with 2009 and that, overall, auto thefts in Washington climbed nearly 10 percent over that same period. In recent times, funding for the Washington State Patrol’s Stole Vehicle Task Force has been reduced by 50 percent.

“Trafficking of cars is a lucrative and, unfortunately, pervasive problem in south King County,” said Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, who sponsored identical legislation in the Senate. “In the past 18 months, prosecutors have found themselves restrained from taking action on five separate cases of car theft due to short statute of limitations requirements. This bill gives prosecutors the tools necessary to hold criminals accountable for their actions to the benefit of public safety not just in King County, but across the state.”

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