By Mina Williams Enterprise editor
Area police departments report that car prowls are on the rise in South County cities.
With school out and a sluggish economy, crooks are on the lookout for any means to get quick cash. That includes stealing property from vehicles intending to turn the items into cash.
Mountlake Terrace Det. Sgt. Don Duncan said that while the majority of the prowls are happening in apartment complexes, break-ins are happening throughout the city.
“Most are crimes of opportunity through unlocked doors and open windows where victims usually encounter expensive vehicle damage — especially to their windows, doors and locks,” he said. “Large parking locations like shopping centers, housing communities, parks and schools are prime targets for a prowler, since multiple vehicles can be hit in a short time span. Also, prowlers know the odds are good that someone will leave a door unlocked, a window down or keys in the ignition.”
While vehicle prowls are common, they also are preventable. Duncan suggests these tips when parking:
• use a garage or secure location whenever possible
• park in well-lit areas where your car can be seen
• avoid isolated areas and park near locations frequently used by pedestrians
• roll up the windows and lock all doors
• secure the trunk, hatches, bed-mounted tool boxes and canopies
• activate your alarm or install an anti-theft device
• call 911 if you hear something suspicious, like shattering glass, or see someone looking into vehicles
Items of interest to prowlers include cameras, CD players and CDs, cell phones, checkbooks, clothing, credit or debit cards, gift cards, day planners, electronic devices, garage door openers, GPS units, jewelry, keys, laptops, luggage or bags, mail, purses, receipts and statements, store bags or packages, tools, vehicle insurance, title and registration information and wallets. These items should not be left in a vehicle, Duncan said.
“Just locking your car doors is the first step in deterring a break in,” said Nathan Lerma, police support officer, Mill Creek Police Department. “Nothing should be visable. Even loose change, a pile of pennies, can attract criminals.”