AUBURN, Wash. - A car dealership owner is asking for help catching the men who allegedly keep breaking into his business.
Behnam Ghafari, the 33-year-old owner of Auto Spot, says its been happening for months, he’s fed up and says he feels like he’s been stripped of his safety.
Ghafari recalls the night like it was just yesterday—it started with a man walking in looking to buy a car with what he says was a fake ID.
That’s when the problems began.
Ghafari says around 2 a.m. Nov. 6, three men smashed the glass to the front door, walked in and took off with 45 keys to cars on the lot. Video surveillance shows them breaking the lock to the fencing finishing the job knocking it down with a blue car.
"I was angry," Ghafari said. "We worked really hard for somebody to come and take everything we have, and nobody can do anything."
The owner says two Auburn police cruisers were at the intersection near A St. SE when they noticed what was happening.
Video shows one of the officers pulling up and trying to intervene, but that’s as far as it goes.
The officer stops in the middle of the street after the thieves speed off, they get off and check the damages.
Police did not chase them.
"When we talked to the police department, they said they can’t chase," Ghafari said.
He says the thieves came back the next day around 4:40 a.m. ramming through the gate again, making off with an Audi. Ghafari says the thieves didn’t make it more than four miles down the road since he deflated one of the tires.
"You don’t have safety; honestly for a few weeks, I was scared going out," Ghafari said.
He says every day he questioned everyone who walked in and around the dealership wondering if they’re real customers or thieves trying to get lucky again.
He says things were quiet until a week later, when he heard one of the cars on the lot being unlocked, and two hooded, masked men jumping inside it.
His first instinct was to slash the back tire to prevent them from driving off.
"After I did, I came to see who's this guy [is], when he pulled a gun on me," Ghafari said. "I was scared, it's a gun, so I jumped behind the car and they ran away."
Fast-forward to Nov. 22 when surveillance cameras pick up a truck crashing into the fence over and over again trying to get in.
Ghafari says it only stops after a man walks by, a witness who called him. Once again, Ghafari says police were in the area.
"I asked, 'What are you guys going to do?’ They said, ‘We feel sorry for you,’" Ghafari said.
He’s been in auto sales since 2013; he and his brother moved their business to A St. SE in 2016.
Ghafari says crime has only spiked since 2020, starting with petty thefts like gas, tires and rims, only to worsen and have catalytic converters stripped off cars.
He says he’s reported between 15–16 break-ins since 2020, but this is the costliest. He’s repaired the fence at least four times, and he’s not even done repairing the aftermath of the thefts.
"I'm afraid, like, someday we have to do something crazy to just keep them away from our businesses," Ghafari said.
FOX 13 News asked what that meant, and if he was armed.
"After they pulled the gun on me, yes, that was the only choice," Ghafari said.
Even though Ghafari and his brother have taken proactive measures to protect their business and prevent people from walking in unnoticed, he says it’s a family effort now, protecting the dealership and watching cameras in the middle of the night.
A total of 45,033 vehicles were stolen in 2022 according to the Puget Sound Auto Task Force and 1,536 in King County in November alone.
Ghafari is now pushing for a change in legislation to help protect small businesses like his.
"I want them to think twice about the bill they put in, like if the police doesn’t have any power what is the point having police department?" Ghafari said. "They have to bring the safety back to Washington."
FOX 13 News has reached out to Auburn Police and are waiting to hear back.
Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for any information in this case, you can submit your tip anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS.