PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As the number of stolen vehicles in Clark County rose from 581 in 2020 to 801 in 2021, or about 37%, authorities are asking the public’s help in fighting the “significant increase” in auto thefts.

In a recent release, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division said car theft “is often a very preventable crime,” and urged the community not to leave their vehicles running or unattended.

“To illustrate how prevalent this crime has become, we tracked auto theft over a 19-day period in one single area of the county, the Orchards area,” the sheriff’s office stated in the release. “From January 1st to January 19th, 2022, there were 23 vehicles stolen from the Orchards area alone.”

Those numbers did not include reports made to the Vancouver Police Department.

According to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, of the 23 stolen cars, five were left to run unattended in driveways or parking lots.

Patrol deputies found 19 unaccompanied cars with engines running in the Sifton and Orchards neighborhoods, within a 30 minute period on Jan. 20, 2022. 

“It is important for the public to know in most cases, our deputies are not authorized to pursue occupied stolen vehicles or use intervention techniques to recover occupied stolen vehicles,” said the sheriff’s office. “Therefore, most stolen vehicles are not recovered unless they are abandoned by the suspect. In many cases, these stolen vehicles are kept for extended periods of times by criminals and then used to commit further crime.”

In addition to urging the public not to leave vehicles running or unattended, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office has encouraged the community to set alarms, avoid leaving keys inside, and keep vehicles in a garage or blocked at night, if able.

“Please be aware that criminals are often roaming both on foot and in vehicles during the morning hours, specifically looking for targets of opportunity.” stated the sheriff’s office. “Don’t be an easy target for a criminal; keep your vehicle locked and warm it up under your supervision.”

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office has asked anyone with information regarding the location of a stolen vehicle or suspects involved to contact law enforcement or call 311.