By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
In the past two years, an average of 105 cars per year were reported stolen in Centralia alone, according to the Centralia Police Department, most of them mid-1990s Hondas, Acuras, Toyotas and Ford trucks.
In an effort to reduce those numbers, the Centralia Police Department is initiating the Centralia Combating Auto Theft or CCAT program.
“This program will provide law enforcement officers another tool to help reduce auto theft in our area,” Centralia Police Chief Carl Nielsen said in a statement. “It will also give our community members some reassurance that if their car is stolen, it may be recovered quicker and increase the possibility that the thief will be apprehended.”
The program allows residents to register their vehicles with the police department and get a reflective sticker to put in their vehicle’s window. Participation in the program gives an officer consent to pull over the car for any reason between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
According to Nielsen, officers often process license plate numbers on suspicious vehicles, but if the vehicle hasn’t yet been reported stolen, they might not have a legal reason to stop the car and question the driver.
Nielsen said he is not aware of similar programs in Washington, but said agencies in Oregon, California and the East Coast do.
Nielsen became familiar with the concept when working in California.
“(It’s) very effective,” he said. “It’s just one more deterrent.”
Nielsen said the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office and state Attorney General’s Office have signed off on the legality of the program, which does not give an officer permission to search a vehicle without consent or a warrant.
The vehicle would be registered with its primary driver’s names on file. Nielsen suggested a driver who loans their vehicle to a friend and family member should warn them about the possibility of getting pulled over in the early hours of the morning.
Nielsen said a phone call confirming they were allowed to have the vehicle would suffice as proof for officers.
The program officially starts Tuesday. To sign up, contact community service officer Kyle Stockdale at 360-330-7680.