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Despite some arrests, car prowls remain a problem in Seattle

SEATTLE, Wash. — An early morning arrest served as a good reminder to always take valuables out of your car. And always lock your car doors.

About 12:20 a.m., officers were dispatched to the 8800 block of 42nd Avenue with report of a car prowler, Seattle police said. Before they could arrive, the call was updated to say the suspect was rummaging through multiple cars, and trying to open locked doors.

Police arrested the suspect after he was positively identified by witnesses.

But the sobering fact remains: there's more car prowls in Seattle than there were five years ago.

One thousand and eighty two car prowl thefts were reported in April, and there were 5,733 year to date through May 31. That's an eight-percent drop year-to-year, and SPD said it continues to treat car prowls as a high priority.

Seattle Police Detective Mark Jamieson calls car prowls "crime of opportunities" that happen year-round.

But as more people head to crowded summer parks, clothes or other valuables are often left in the car. That's when car prowlers strike.

"They'll check parks and do their own kind of surveillance in the parks," Captain Marcia Harnden of the Bellevue Police Department said. "They're watching. When the person goes off into the park they smash the window and pop the trunk."

Police say it takes less than a minute for an experienced car prowler to break into a parked vehicle.

They offer these tips for parking on the street:

  • Take a moment to observe your surroundings when leaving or returning to your car.
  • If your car is stored in a carport or parked near your house, leave your exterior lights on throughout the night.
  • Increase the visibility of parking spaces on residential or business properties by trimming back trees and bushes, and installing motion-detecting lighting.
  • Drivers can help keep thieves out of secure parking garages by taking a few moments to ensure security doors fully close behind them.  Contact your building management and advise them to accelerate garage door timers.
  • If you park on the street, choose a well-lit, open space.
  • If you park your car in a dark or isolated area, you can make a request for a new streetlight if there is an existing pole nearby. Call (206) 684-7056 for more information.