By Jack Mayne
The SeaTac City Council this week approved a new ordinance that protects people who have unwittingly purchased a stolen car from being arrested and charged if they are able to prove they purchased the vehicle not knowing it was stolen.
This problem is a SeaTac problem more than some other cities because of the many thefts of cars and trucks parked in open lots near the airport while the owners make business or pleasure trips.
The City Council Tuesday night (Feb. 9, 2021) unanimously passed a new ordinance making it illegal to prosecute anyone who attempts to “deter and prosecute unlawful entry and/or unlawful attempts to enter vehicles” which the city says has become “increasingly challenging” for the King County Prosecutor to prosecute.
What often happens in SeaTac is a vehicle owned or leased by a person on a lengthy trip may be stolen and then sold to an innocent third party. If police identify the vehicle as stolen, the next problem is proving the person possessing the vehicle knew or should have known it was stolen, sometimes hard to do when the driver possesses papers that turn out to be fake.
“This has impacted community members significantly, as many individuals victimized by this type crime heavily rely on their vehicles as their source of income such as rider share drivers and contract workers,” the city says.
The fine and incarceration for the current violation is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine.
The cities of Burien, Kent, Renton, Auburn, and Tukwila have all passed Vehicle Trespass ordinances similar to the proposed ordinance before the SeaTac City Council.
The newly proposed SeaTac ordinance says “a person is guilty of vehicle trespass if he or she knowingly enters, or attempts to enter, or remains unlawfully in a vehicle belonging to another.”
The updated ordinance approved Tuesday night says “violation of any of the provisions of this chapter is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment not to exceed ninety (90) days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”
New Community Engagement Officer
King County Deputy Sheriff Robell Ghrmai was introduced to the SeaTac City Council as the SeaTac Police Department’s choice for the new position of Community Engagement Officer.
“It’s a great place to work,” he said.
Ghrmai has 13 years of law enforcement experience as a patrol deputy, field training officer, school resource officer, a detective attached to a Street Crimes Unit, and six years as a part of the Sheriff’s Department of Special Operations, attached to a risk mitigation team.
As a deputy sheriff, Ghrmai spent his first eight years in the Burien and White Center area.
Ghrmai attended Hazen High School in Renton, then joined the Navy where he spent four years on active duty followed by six years in the reserves. He attended Bellevue College and is currently attending online California Coast University to complete his degree.
Ghrmai is the son of immigrants from Eritrea who moved to Western Washington in the late 1960’s. He has two brothers and a large extended family in the area. The officer has a 9-year old son now in the third grade.
Ghrmai speaks the Tigrinya language conversationally.
He says he is very community and family oriented and enjoys camping and doing outdoor activities, including snowboarding, scuba diving and rock climbing with his son.
“I was involved in a lot of community functions to including the ‘GREAT’ Program (Gang Resistance Education and Training,” he said. “I was assigned to the Burien Community Engagement team for a year prior to transferring to the Metro Street Crimes Unit. While enlisted in the military I was deployed to Bahrain, Dubai, and Cuba.”