EVERETT — By his own account, Caleb Bradley has swiped 100 cars since August — an average of five a week.
As far as Snohomish County Auto Theft Task Force detectives can tell, his estimate is likely accurate.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested the Granite Falls man, 20, Tuesday in a 2008 Honda Civic that had been reported stolen. He was booked into the Snohomish County Jail on four counts of auto theft, but that’s a starting point for now, police say. The investigation is continuing.
Detectives believe Bradley pocketed valuables from many of the stolen cars to feed a heroin habit. They don’t suspect any of the vehicles he took were stripped for parts.
“He literally stole them to get from Point A to Point B,” auto theft task force detective Eric Fagan said. “It was easier for him to just take a Honda to go where he wanted to go than to catch a ride with a friend or wait for a bus.”
Bradley candidly spoke of his five-month spree and shared the tools of the trade with detectives, according to court papers.
He allegedly explained that he used shaved keys he called “jigglers” to break into Hondas — a perennially popular target among car thieves. The top two most stolen vehicles in Washington state in 2012 were older-model Honda Accords and Civics.
Bradley said he only used his jigglers on Hondas. Other cars he would steal because their owners would leave an extra key inside.
“It’s very common,” Fagan said. “For whatever reason, people keep an extra key in their cars.”
Bradley allegedly detailed the spate of four-wheel felonies in an interview with an auto theft task force detective. The Honda he was in when arrested was stolen from a Menzel Lake Road address between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Tuesday, he reportedly said.
Two days earlier, he allegedly stole a Toyota Camry from Lynnwood and left it in the Fred Meyer parking lot in Monroe.
In Monroe, he reportedly boosted a blue Honda with a key in it and then switched the plates with another Honda to try to avoid detection.
“Bradley told me that if he is going to keep the cars for more than one night he will switch the plates,” the detective wrote in a report.
Police were able to track down one of the stolen cars on S. Alder Avenue in Granite Falls. Bradley said he’d parked the car there. He also reportedly provided the key.
He told the detective that he often drove cars he stole to Granite Falls and parked them in visible spots so they could be found. Many of the cars he ditched were recovered and returned to their owners.
Granite Falls police has recovered 19 stolen cars since August in their city. During the same period, 33 vehicles were reported stolen.
Bradley also mentioned a white Honda he allegedly stole from Marysville in October. He directed officers to Scotty Road near Granite Falls. Sure enough, nearly three months later, it was still there.
In another instance, he said, he tried to steal a Honda from 134th Place NE in Marysville. He needed to get to court.
Bradley said he ran off when the steering wheel locked and a man began to approach him. Fearing that police were on their way, he said, he spotted another Honda just a block away and stole it, court papers said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org.