Letters to the Editor

Need help for car theft victims

State Representative John Lovick (44th District) is proposing legislation (HB 1001) to help reduce auto theft in this state. It is well thought out and deserves serious consideration during the upcoming legislative session.
HB 1001 contains some good ideas about seriously addressing a huge problem we have in our community. Reducing law and justice costs (taxes) by eventually lowering the workload and adding preventative measures is where we need to go. However, lets not forget the victims of this crime and how we can help them.
The one thing not addressed in the proposal is the growing re-victimization of auto theft victims by a system designed to try to protect them. We can tweak the criminal justice system trying to find ways to reduce the crime and punish the crooks, but the victims problems always remain. For many, the costs of recovery (towing) and storage (tow yard) of a vehicle can be unaffordable, if law enforcement cant contact victims to come to the recovery scene, or if their car cant be driven because it was damaged by the thief and is towed away. The reality of having to pay the tow bill and storage fees can be a budget buster and victims face not being able to get their car back because they cant afford the bill. When victims cant pay, their loss is compounded.
I have talked to countless frustrated auto theft victims and their families about the unintended negative result of recovering their vehicle and how costly it can be to try to get it back. For example, one local young lady lost her car twice because first it was stolen and second she couldnt afford to get it out of storage. Because of her lost transportation to college it resulted in her withdrawing from school. The domino effect is endless. Where would you be without transportation in todays world?
This is a statewide issue and I propose that we should create a state car theft recovery fund which is managed by the state. This new and separate victims fund could be financed by small fines (not increased taxes) levied against the auto thieves, drunk drivers and those convicted of criminal traffic offenses. Payout limits could be negotiated and set with all those having an interest in the recovery system. I have been discussing this idea with many of our Representatives, Prosecutors, Clerks and Sheriffs and anticipate more discussions with insurance and towing company representatives during this legislative session. It will need careful consideration by all concerned, but I believe it can help those crime victims living on small budgets get on with their lives and consequently help the community. We need to address this portion of the auto theft problem side-by-side with Representative Lovicks proposal in order to best serve everyone involved.
Sheriff Rick Bart
Snohomish County Sheriffs Office
3000 Rockefeller Ave, MS 606
Everett, WA 98201
425-388-3026
Rick.Bart@co.snohomish.wa.us

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