On the day after Christmas, a week after the theft, Battle Ground police told Ouchida her car had been recovered and she would need to retrieve it from a tow yard in Clackamas, Ore. She paid about $450 in fees to get her car back. Whoever stole it apparently removed her radio, damaging the dashboard in the process, and stole some valuables she had in the trunk.
Ouchida’s narrative echoes thousands of others in Clark County. Her 90s Honda Accord is the most commonly stolen car locally and across the state.
Although auto thefts are declining locally, stealing a vehicle is still one of the top crimes in Clark County. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office hopes to make a sizeable dent in local cases with the help of a Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority grant that supports a prosecutor dedicated to convicting offenders of auto-related crimes.
From 2004 to 2013, there’s been an 87 percent increase in arrests related to auto theft. The number of vehicles reported stolen dropped from 2,045 in 2009 to 1,687 in 2013. Crime Analyst Brian Salsig, with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, projects that by the end of 2014, the number of auto thefts will drop even more.
When Battle Ground police called her, Ouchida learned that the Clackamas County (Ore.) Sheriff’s Office found the car around 2 a.m. Dec. 20 (the day after it was stolen), abandoned in the parking lot of the Clackamas Town Center.
A Battle Ground police officer took a report about the theft, but wasn’t able to find any evidence or identify a suspect, said Chief Bob Richardson. The vehicle was entered into a national database of stolen vehicles; that’s how Clackamas deputies knew it was stolen when they found it at the mall.
“While TV shows portray officers lifting fingerprints and DNA material off of every item, entering the information into a database, and a few minutes later, a suspect’s name, photo and current address show up on the monitor — that’s not real life,” Richardson said.
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