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caption: Carri Gordon is the Washington State Missing Person Alert Coordinator at the WA State Patrol.
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Carri Gordon is the Washington State Missing Person Alert Coordinator at the WA State Patrol.
Credit: KUOW/Amy Radil

Children in stolen vehicles account for most of 2022’s Amber Alerts, WA officials say

The Washington State Patrol has noticed a considerable spike in car thefts, and that is spilling over into cases of abducted children — cars are being stolen with kids inside and that accounts for most of this year's Amber Alerts.

So far this year, car thefts in Washington state have risen 78%, compared to the same time period last year, according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

Carri Gordon coordinates all missing person alerts at the Washington State Patrol. She said Amber alerts generally involve intentional abductions of children under age 17. An alert for a missing child is relayed to local law enforcement, media, and even your smartphone.

But 2/3 Amber Alerts issued so far this year in Washington state have involved children sitting in vehicles that were eventually stolen.

“It’s just a freak thing that just started happening this past year or two,” Gordon said, adding that “kids are being left in running vehicles that are stolen and it’s becoming a problem.”

They include a one-year-old girl in Yakima and a three-year-old girl in Bothell.

A third child was mistakenly believed to be in a stolen vehicle in Seattle. All were found safe.

Gordon said according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the trend is national, and not unique to the state.

She said Washington has averaged 4-5 Amber Alerts per year in recent years. Then there were nine in 2021. Two of those also involved children in vehicles that were stolen.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the period of time over which the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs compared car theft data. The story has also been updated with new data from the association.

This story was most recently updated on Thursday, Aug. 18 at 3:50 p.m.