Preventing vehicular smash and grabs

Mar 9, 2023
Written by WR Communications

Tumwater Costco pylon barrier

News reports in recent weeks have shed light on a staggering frequency of vehicular smash and grabs. In most cases, stolen cars are driven through a retail business’ storefront doors, giving thieves access to the store’s goods. Repair costs are often in the tens of thousands of dollars, while the stolen merchandise amounts to only a fraction of that in value.

The destruction of retail storefronts is met with a six to eight-week wait time for building materials necessary for repairs, adding to the frustration of business owners.

Property crimes reached a five-year high last year, according to a presentation by the Olympia Police to the Community Livability and Public Safety Committee late last month. One of the biggest jumps was in stolen vehicles. Police received 364 reports of motor vehicle theft in 2022. That’s more than a 40% increase over the city’s five-year average of 260 auto thefts in Olympia.

The problem runs statewide. According to the Auto Theft Task Force of Puget Sound—part of the Washington State Patrol—car thefts statewide from January through November last year were 41,330. That number is for the first 11 months. In total, vehicle thefts increased by 88 percent from 2021 to 2022.

Stolen vehicles are a much more substantial “tool” to gain access to a retail business than bolt cutters or a hammer. The good news is business owners have preventative options.

As outlined in the Guide to Navigating Public Safety & Retail Crime, a free resource WR offers, bollards can prevent vehicles from ramming into buildings. Even if a city doesn’t approve bollard installations, removable barriers, such as rock-filled gabion wire cages, can support a planter or bench seat while effectively stopping a moving vehicle.


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