Neighbor helps Mountlake Terrace food bank find stolen van; help ID destructive auto thief who took it

The pandemic has forced more families to rely on food banks, but a stolen van left a nonprofit in Mountlake Terrace fighting to keep up with demand.

While the nonprofit called Concern For Neighbors Food Bank has always been grateful for the community it serves, that gratitude came back full circle thanks to the help of neighbors.

Surveillance video captured in broad daylight shows the moments a thief took off with a van from the food bank last Saturday. It all happened in a matter of seconds.

"The person walked into the parking lot, jimmied the lock of our cargo van, hotwired the van and drove off with it in less than a minute," said Mike Begeman, Director of Concern For Neighbors Food Bank.

Begeman says without the van, the volunteer-run organization was struggling to pick up food donations as it normally does 5 times a week.

"On average, we give approximately 15 to 70 pounds per person, or per household, so you can do the math," said Begeman.

Math that just could not add up without their main form of transportation.

"They make no money; they’re just out helping your neighbors and people out in the community," said Detective Pat Hatchel of The Mountlake Terrace Police Department. "That’s what’s really disturbing about this."

"What we want is the van back," said Begeman. "I don’t care who took it or why, I just want the van back."

Tuesday afternoon, the food bank’s wish came true thanks to a vigilant neighbor who saw a Facebook post about the stolen van.

The neighbor spotted the van parked and running on a residential street a mile away from the food bank.

The license plates were changed and the van was spray-painted and vandalized.

For Mountlake Terrace Police, the hunt continues for the thief who had no concern for their neighbors.

"I believe if somebody knows him they will instantly recognize him even with the mask on," said Detective Hatchel.

Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information that identifies the suspect. Call 1-800-222-tips or text your tip through the p3 tips app on your cell phone. It is anonymous.

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