Car thieves could soon spend more time behind bars

Car thieves could soon spend more time behind bars »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima police and city prosecutors are looking at a new way to get tough on car thieves. KIMA learned they've come up with a plan to prosecute suspected car thieves in municipal court instead of the Yakima County Courthouse.

"I looked outside and it wasn't there any more," said Tony Valencia, a Yakima man who had his car stolen. "I bought it on Monday and looked outside Tuesday and it was gone."

He's not the only one. In just the first half of 2012, more than 700 cars were stolen on Yakima's streets.

Car thieves are more creative. Using car parts to break a window quieter than a rock and with less effort.

It's one of the reasons YPD is trying something new. The department and city prosecutors plan to begin a pilot program to keep car thieves behind bars longer.

"These offenders would spend time in our jail charged with a lesser offense, but ultimately get a longer sentence," said Captain Rod Light.

Capt. Light says the new tactic means prosecuting car thieves in municipal court with a gross misdemeanor. Convictions bring up to a year in jail. That is more than they'd get in the county courthouse.

"Second and 3rd time stealing a car they may get 30 days," said Capt. Light about the current system.

Yakima leaders are still working out the kinks in the plan. They have to consider the amount of available jail space, the cost to keep them longer and the workload for prosecutors. Still, Light says it's a solution to a very significant problem.

Captain Rod Light says less than a dozen notorious thieves are responsible for most of the stolen cars here in Yakima. The idea is to identify them, arrest them and keep them in jail for more than a month.