Sheriff warns of Camano Island burglar

CAMANO ISLAND — It may take a while, but police say Colton Harris-Moore, the notorious teenage burglar, will be caught.

Eventually, he’ll make a mistake that will enable deputies to hunt the 17-year-old fugitive down, Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said.

The sheriff has called a community meeting tonight to talk to islanders about the search, what neighbors can do to protect their property and how people can help police.

Brown said he’ll ask people to remain extra vigilant, keep their doors locked and watch for the 6-foot-5-inch, 200-pound teenager.

While the sheriff refused to discuss details, he said he’s developing a strategy to snare the elusive young felon.

“I’m going to do everything in my power to create something that will work,” Brown said.

Police believe they spotted Harris-Moore late Thursday running away after a brief car chase near the Elger Bay Grocery.

The driver jumped out of the moving car and ran. He matched Harris-Moore’s description.

Deputies learned the sports car was reported stolen. They also recovered stolen property in the car.

Add to that a recent rise in reported break-ins on south Camano Island and the evidence points to Harris-Moore, Brown said.

Pamela Kohler, the boy’s mother, said she believes he’s well cared for, living on south Camano Island and will turn himself in when he’s ready.

She’s cooperating with police and doesn’t know precisely where her son is staying, she said Tuesday.

Now, she just wants her peace and quiet back. Kohler said she’s hired security guards to protect her property and herself.

“I just want everybody to leave me alone because I’m not the one doing anything,” she said.

The teenager made news last year after he eluded police for months. He was arrested in February 2007 and pleaded guilty to residential burglary.

Harris-Moore was ordered to serve at least three years in juvenile detention, but on April 22, he escaped from a Renton group home.

Island County sheriff’s deputies feared the boy with the burglary habit would return home to Camano Island.

Now, police are convinced he’s back, Brown said.

Catching a fugitive in the rural, wooded area is a challenge, the sheriff said.

Hiding on the 40-square-mile island can be as easy as stepping into the brush.

In the past, the dozen or so deputies assigned to the island have deployed a variety of strategies to try to arrest Harris-Moore.

In 2006, they posed as pizza delivery men. Later, they staked out a package they believed Harris-Moore had ordered.

Finally, an alert neighbor spotted lights on in a home that should have been empty and called 911. Deputies surrounded Harris-Moore and he was arrested.

On Friday, an Everett police dog and a team of Marysville police trained as trackers combed the woods and fields near where deputies believe they spotted Harris-Moore.

While police dogs follow their nose, police trackers use their eyes and other senses, said Jon Frantzen, who lives in Stanwood and helps run the Tactical Tracking Operations School headquartered in Nevada.

They can then make deductions about a person’s behaviors, he said.

The more times police track the teenager, the more evidence they’ll collect to build a profile about him, said Bob Brady, who teaches tracking and is a police officer in Granite Falls.

They’ll likely try to set up containment around Harris-Moore and then move in, Brady said.

“The biggest problem is they don’t have the manpower to dedicate to one knucklehead,” he said. “The guy’s having fun. He’s eluding the police officers pretty easy, but he’s going to get caught. It’s just a matter of time.”

Island County sheriff’s Cmdr. Chris Ellis said he’s been dealing with Harris-Moore for nearly nine years.

“It’s frustrating that he escaped. Certainly it’s frustrating for us,” Ellis said. “Now, we need to focus on the fact that on Camano Island we have a fugitive felon that we need to arrest.”

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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