Car thefts in Yakima drop by 20% in 2013

Car thefts in Yakima drop by 20% in 2013 »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- A small town with a big problem. Car thefts. Putting Yakima on the infamous top 10 list for the crime.

"The first emotion is anger and frustration," said car theft victim Hugo Camarillo.

Yakima police share his emotions. It's why detectives tackled the problem head-on.

"Last year during the first quarter, we had a number of our more prolific auto thieves out and about stealing cars," said Yakima Police Lieutenant Mike Merryman. "Sometimes many cars a day."

But now, more than half of those prolific car thieves are behind bars. That helped cut the number of car thefts by 20 percent.

"It shows that law enforcement is doing a good job," said Camarillo.

Sure, but how are police doing it? Lt. Mike Merryman says it's two things. Smarter drivers and longer sentences.

Since last fall, YPD began working with prosecutors to charge some thieves in municipal court instead of superior court. That move can add at least six months to their sentences if convicted.

"The goal of course is to change their behavior ultimately," said Merryman. "But aside from that, if they won't, then yeah, incarcerate and keep them locked up so we get relief and citizens have relief."

There were a little more than 250 cars stolen in Yakima in the first quarter. YPD wants to get down to less than 100.