TACOMA, Wash. - While stolen cars continue to be an issue throughout Western Washington, law enforcement is losing resources at the end of the year.
Unfortunately, there will be fewer detectives available to go after car thieves.
Starting on December 31, Washington State Patrol is stepping away from the Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force.
The task force is a multi-agency team who goes after repeat car thieves.
However, due to increasing road rage shootings, deadly hit-and-runs, and other violent road-related crimes the Washington State Patrol (WSP) is reallocating its resources.
"The determination is as violent crimes are rising in other parts of our road way service, we need to apply more resources to that," said Chris Loftis.
Loftis is the communications director for WSP. He says right now a change is needed.
"We’ve got limited resources, and we’ve got significant responsible, and so we have to make continual adjustment as to how we deploy our resources so that we can meet those responsibilities. And I think that everyone would agree that responding to violent crime is, has to supersede it," he said.
In total, four detectives from WSP will leave the task force. Three detectives are going to different offices, and one is retiring.
Since 2017, these four detectives have been responsible for a combined recovery of 921 stolen cars, equaling more than $13 million, and they were responsible for 241 arrests.
Other local law enforcement agencies say the work the Puget Sound Auto Theft Task force does in the community is vital for catching crooks that might slip through the cracks.
"We don’t have enough people to follow up on property crimes. We have violent assaults and murders that we have to investigate, that take priority over someone’s car getting stolen. So, having somebody, or a whole unit, to go after these guys that are stealing cars over and over again, the prolific car thieves, it’s extremely beneficial," said Sergeant Darren Moss with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.
For victims of car thefts, the decision creates questions.
"That makes no sense that they would be cutting the task force at the time when the crime is rising by the minute," said Liz Walle.
Somebody stole Walle’s daughter’s car from their driveway Saturday night.
Walle says they spent the week looking for the car, and unfortunately found it when Tacoma Police tweeted out a picture of a car crash that happened Thursday.
She thinks more resources should be added toward cracking down on car thefts instead of the opposite.
Loftis says it is possible that resources will be added back to the auto theft task force at some point. He says it is something that has happened in the past. However, there is no timeline as to when, or if, that might happen.