Timeto focus on car prowls

Published on Thu, Mar 3, 2005 by Sheriff Bill Elfo

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Time to focus on car prowls

By Sheriff Bill Elfo

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office has responded to 453 car prowls throughout the county in 2004.

These crimes, which involve the illegal entry of a vehicle, often through force, resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in property loss and damage. During a car prowl, entry to the vehicle is typically gained in seconds through an unlocked door or by smashing a side window. Thieves target stereo equipment, purses, backpacks, wallets, or anything else of value. In almost all car prowl arrests, the suspect is discovered to have a drug problem, usually methamphetamine or heroin.

The sheriff’s office is fighting back with new tools and methods that hold a lot of promise in combating this type of crime. Using computer modeling, analysis, and solid investigative work by county deputies, two of the most prolific car prowlers in recent county history were recently arrested.

One of the prowlers, arrested February 24, is known to have been active since the spring of 2004 and has admitted to almost 20 car prowls just in the last couple of months. When arrested, he had property from five car prowls in his possession and approximately 50 vehicle and building keys that have yet to be identified. The second prowler operated between October and January and was responsible for at least 20 car prowls that resulted in approximately $15,000 in stolen property and several thousand dollars in property damage. This suspect traded the stolen property for drugs shortly after each theft. These individuals committed crimes throughout the county, from Glenhaven to Birch Bay. The sheriff’s office will be working with local police departments and victims to try and identify and arrange the return of stolen property.

Now, with spring on the way and a growing problem with methamphetamine and other drugs in the county, the sheriff’s office is preparing for an increase in car prowls at trailheads, parks, and recreational sites. Almost half of the county’s annual car prowls occur during the four-month period between May 1 and August 31.
Crime prevention deputy Chad Heinrich offers several ways citizens can avoid becoming victims.

Remove your keys and take them with you. Roll up the windows and lock the car.

Don’t leave valuables, particularly purses and wallets, in plain view (hiding them under the seat isn’t a good idea either). Put valuables in the trunk.

When parking, take a look around before leaving your car and make note of vehicles and individuals that seem out of place, particularly individuals sitting inside their car.

If you don’t have a garage at home, try to park in a well-lit, open area. Otherwise, consider installing motion-activated lights.

Never leave your car running unattended.

Call 911 and file a report if your car is broken into. Nothing can be done if it’s not reported.