15.190 - Auto Theft and Recovery

Effective Date: 07/13/16

This policy applies to reporting auto thefts and recovering stolen vehicles.


1. The Communications Section Documents Stolen Vehicles and Plates in a SPD Preliminary Vehicle Report

The call taker completes a Preliminary Vehicle Report when documenting a report of:

- Theft of a vehicle, theft of one or both license plates

- SPD stolen vehicle recovered by the owner and there are no extenuating circumstances.

See 15.190-PRO-1 Officer Taking Report of Stolen Vehicle or Plates

2. Officers Complete a General Offense Report (GO) Documenting the On-Scene Investigation of Stolen Vehicles and Plates

Officers complete the GO report using the "Stolen Vehicle Investigations" template for stolen vehicles and the "GO template" for the theft of license plates, license plate tabs or attempted theft of a vehicle. Officers will include in the narrative:

- The specific details of the theft, and

- Any evidence left at the scene, and

- That they provided the complainant with a case number and business card.

Officers document property of significant value left in the vehicle by the victim on a property report.

See 15.190-PRO-1 Reporting of Stolen Vehicle or Plates

3. Officers Document all Crimes in an Auto Theft Investigation Using the Same Case Number

When conducting a vehicle theft investigation with another crime(s), officers will complete a GO to document the crime and the vehicle theft using the case number under which the theft was reported.

Exception: If another crime is investigated under a vehicle recovery, officers will complete a GO for the investigation of the crime and a supplemental report to recover the vehicle using the GO number under which it was reported stolen.

4. Officers Screen Certain Cases with the Auto Theft Unit

Officers will refer complainants to the Auto Theft Unit rather than complete a stolen vehicle report when:

- The complainant knows who has the vehicle.

- The complainant’s child (juvenile or adult) took the vehicle. This also applies to family members over whom the complainant assumes a parent/guardian role and family members living in the same household.

- If the situation warrants a missing person/runaway report, officers will list the vehicle information in the narrative of that report.

- A rental car company is the complainant. This includes short term usage companies such as Car2Go and ZipCar.

5. Officers May Consult the Auto Theft Sergeant

The Auto Theft sergeant can be reached at 206-684-8948 or via the Chief Dispatcher after hours.

6. Officers Write a “Suspicious Circumstance” GO Report if the Complainant Insists on Receiving a Case Number

Officers provide the GO number of the report to the complainant on a business card and route the report to the Auto Theft Unit.

7. Officers Will Impound Recovered Vehicles Only in Certain Instances

If the Communications Section cannot contact the owner or the owner cannot respond, officers will only impound recovered vehicles originally reported stolen in Seattle if:

- The owner authorized the impound,

- The vehicle poses an immediate hazard, or

- It is illegally parked as described in SMC 11.30.040.

If none of the above applies, officers may leave the vehicle legally parked with a business card left in the vehicle.

Officers may also release the vehicle to another person specified by the owner.

8. Officers Complete a Supplemental Report for Recovered SPD Stolen Vehicles

If a vehicle is originally reported stolen in Seattle and it is recovered in Seattle, officers will use the original GO number for the recovery.

See 15.190-PRO-2 Officer Recovering a SPD Stolen Vehicle.

9. Impound Vehicles Stolen Outside the City and Complete a New General Offense Report

Immediately impound vehicles recovered in the city reported stolen outside the city. Obtain a new GO number for the Tow/Impound Record.

If a new crime is investigated with the recovery of an outside stolen, use the same GO number for the crime, recovery and impound.

15.190-PRO-1 Officer Taking Report of Stolen Vehicle or Plates

Communications Section

1. Completes the Preliminary Vehicle Report, “Greenie”.

1a. If this is not done before the officer is dispatched, the officer will call in this information after step 5.

2. Dispatches officer to take the report.


3. Interviews complainant.

3a. If the case falls under 15.190-POL-4, refers complainant to the Auto Theft Unit at 206-684-8940 or SPDAutoTheft@seattle.gov.

- If the complainant is referred to Auto Theft or the investigation dictates that the vehicle should not be listed as stolen, notifies the Communications Section that the investigation is not a valid auto theft pending further investigation.


3b. Completes the investigation. (See 15.190-TSK-1 Officer Documenting a Stolen Vehicle)

Communications Section

4. Faxes the Preliminary Vehicle Report to Data Center.

Data Center

5 Enters the vehicle into WACIC/NCIC as stolen based on the information on the Preliminary Vehicle Report.

15.190-PRO-2 Officer Recovering a Stolen Vehicle

Communications Section

1. Screens incoming call to determine information needed for dispatch of an officer.

2. Dispatches officer to take the report.

3. Once the officer has located the vehicle, verifies the vehicle as stolen, and

4. Relays the verification to the responding officer.

5. Contacts the victim once directed by the officer. 

6. Advises victim to respond to the scene to reclaim the vehicle.


7. Locates the vehicle.

8. Verifies the stolen vehicle hit with the Communications Section.

9a. If the vehicle is an SPD Stolen, completes a supplemental report to the original GO number to document the condition of the vehicle and circumstances of the recovery.

9b. If the vehicle is an outside agency stolen, completes a GO to document the condition of the vehicle and circumstances of the recovery.

10. Performs an inventory search and fingerprint search of the vehicle.

11a. If SPD stolen and owner can respond to retrieve vehicle, releases the vehicle to an authorized person.

- Does not apply to outside stolen recoveries.

11b. If SPD stolen and owner cannot respond to retrieve vehicle:

- Impounds the vehicle under Seattle Police Manual Section 6.120 - Impounding Vehicles. This policy applies when Impounding vehicles under Investigations, arrests and recoveries.


- Leaves the vehicle parked with a business card attached.

- Does not apply to outside stolen recoveries.

12. Advises Communications of the condition of the vehicle.



13. Notifies Data Center of the recovery details provided by the officer which include:

- Location of the recovery

- Recovering officer’s call sign

- Vehicle condition (damaged, stripped of wheels, plate, engine, transmission, other etc.)

- Number of plates on vehicle (specify if rear plate missing)

- Location of impound (if applicable)

- Time owner was notified

- Release to owner (if applicable)

- Recovery CAD event number (if SPD)

- Outside stolen recovery must include SPD Case number

- Dispatcher serial and zone

15.190-TSK-1 Officer Documenting a Stolen Vehicle

After conducting a field investigation concerning the facts of the stolen vehicle report, the officer:

1. Advises the complainant of impound options at time of recovery and that the vehicle may be impounded if;

- a responsible party cannot respond

- it presents a hazard

- it is illegally parked, or

- recovered outside Seattle’s jurisdiction

2. Determines if the reporting party would like their vehicle impounded or not and whether or not they consent to officers performing a vehicle search upon recovery.

3. Advises Radio that the officer has a “verified stolen” and whether or not the complainant requests impound.

4. Gives a business card and case number to the complainant.

5. Writes a GO report (with the "Stolen Vehicle Investigations" template) using the assigned case number on the call.