Democrats have pushed Washington into lawlessness. Here’s how we restore order

Guest Editorial by Sen. Jim McCune | Tacoma News Tribune | Feb. 1, 2024

They call themselves “Kia Boys.” Young, mostly male, inspired by social media attention and lax police pursuit laws, they have brought chaos and destruction to our roads and retailers.

A man who is allegedly one of them, 18-year-old Saylen Kelly, pleaded not guilty Jan. 22 to eight charges of auto theft despite allegedly making multiple Instagram posts that bragged about his exploits. Prosecutors say eight stolen cars were recovered within 1,000 feet of his home.

Stealing cars, posting about it online and stashing the cars nearby is not the brightest move, but par for the course in what are becoming known as “crash-and-grab” robberies.

These criminals use stolen vehicles to smash storefronts, take what they can, then quickly flee in another stolen car. They do thousands of dollars in damage and put lives at risk for what is often relatively little merchandise and cash — and often hit multiple locations.

Some retailers around the country have been hit five, seven, even eight times, to the point it is almost routine. Some have stopped reporting the issue to law enforcement, which means we don’t know how bad the problem really is.

While any storefront retailer can become a crash-and-grab victim, these criminals favor smoke and vape shops, and cannabis retailers.

Cannabis shops are plentiful and have become a magnet for criminal activities. According to Washington’s Craft Cannabis Coalition, robberies at pot shops spiked in 2022, with more than 100 incidents reported. Criminals know these are primarily cash-only businesses, which makes them easy targets. Employees have been harmed, customers and neighbors have been traumatized.

These dangerous crash-and-grabs are also just the latest manifestation of the breakdown in public safety.

Crime data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 2022 ranked Washington second nationally for auto theft with 693 automobiles stolen per 100,000 people — a jump of nearly 40% since just 2021.

The Forbes Retail Theft Index found reported retail thefts in Washington are 48% higher than the population would suggest. The 24% rise in larceny thefts from 2019 to 2022 is also second-largest in the nation, according to FBI crime data.

Washington’s violent crime rate was about 1% below the U.S. rate in 2022. A decade earlier it was about 23% below the national rate.

This chaos and lawlessness is the price of bad policies, particularly laws passed by the Legislature’s Democratic majorities.

The party’s mistakes include the disastrous 2021 law that restrict law enforcement from pursuing suspects and the so-called “Blake Fix, which reduced hard drug possession to a gross misdemeanor.

According to the Washington State Patrol, between 2014 and 2020 an average of 1,200 suspects per year fled from police. In 2022, after the pursuit standard was raised to probable cause, 3,100 suspects fled — an increase of more than 150%.

Before the change in this law, the statewide record for stolen cars in a single year was 30,000. That record was shattered when nearly 47,000 vehicles were stolen in 2022.

Democrats have been forced to walk back some of these policies, but even the changes adopted in 2023 fail to fully restore the law to a reasonable standard. Crimes like burglary still do not qualify for a chase.

Fortunately, we can take some common-sense steps to restore law and order.

First, lawmakers should enact Initiative 2113, and remove some of the remaining unnecessary restrictions on police pursuits. If passed, vehicular pursuits would be allowed when the officer has a reasonable suspicion that a person has violated the law or poses a threat to the safety of others; when those safety risks are greater than those of the pursuit, and a supervisor authorizes the pursuit.

Second, the Legislature should pass the measures I have introduced that directly targets crash-and-grab robberies.

Senate Bill 6133 would increase penalties for those who use a car to cause damage or gain entry to a cannabis retailer to commit a crime. Should this bill become law, someone using a car to smash-and-grab at a cannabis store can face a charge of first- or second-degree robbery — both felonies.

Allowing police to pursue criminals, stronger penalties for these “trending” crimes, and creating a culture that respects and appreciates good cops while holding bad apples accountable — now there’s a significant step toward restoring law and order and putting the Kia Boys out of business.

Sen. Jim McCune (R-Graham) represents the 2nd Legislative District, which includes parts of Pierce and Thurston counties. He currently serves on the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Read more at: