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Car prowls on the rise in Port Orchard area

Car owners beware.

According to the Port Orchard Police, a rash of car prowls has hit Port Orchard. GPS systems, Ipods and other items are being stolen from cars at an abnormally high rate.

“I think it’s a sign of the times,” said Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend in an email to the Independent. “Less jobs, less money, people finding opportunities to steal.”

Port Orchard residents have reported 15 car prowls since Jan. 1, including six reports filed in last two weeks, said Geoffrey Marti, Port Orchard Police Commander.

The actual number of offenses committed is probably much higher, he said, because people don’t often take the time to report a car prowl.

“A lot of times people don’t report the offenses,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t even know their car has been prowled.”

The Ridge at McCormick Woods housing development has seen a particularly high uptick in car prowls, Marti said. The high number of street-parked cars make it an easy target for prowlers looking for a quick hit.

“The Ridge has reported about 10 prowls in the last couple of months,” Marti said.

Every couple of years, a noticeable spike in car prowl offenses will occur, Marti said.

“Criminals get away with it a few times and they think it’s an easy thing to do to make a few bucks,” Marti said.

Car prowlers usually work in groups of three or four, Marti said. Using a flashlight to check into vehicles in the early morning hours, thieves can quickly determine if anything of value was left in the car overnight. If they spot a GPS unit, a set of golf clubs or anything else deemed easy to resell, it can take as little as 30 seconds to break into car.

And most of the time, thieves don’t even have to smash a window to make off with the stash.

“Most of the offenses we see come from people who don’t lock their cars,” Marti said.

The most effective way to prevent car prowls is simply locking up the car, Marti said. He also encouraged individuals to park in well-lit areas, remove valuable items from cars and remove the faceplate from expensive in-car sound systems.

Anytime something of value is left in the car, make sure it’s in the trunk.

Marti said removing all items from the car is the closest “sure thing” to preventing break-ins.

“I’ve got a rule,” he said. “When I leave my car, I take out my sunglasses, my bag and everything else. I leave absolutely nothing in the car. You want to make your car less appealing.”

For cases where a window is smashed or a lock is broken, repair on the car is often times more expensive than the item lost.

“We respond to many of these calls where the thief did hundreds of dollars in damage only to steal less than $50 worth of items,” Townsend said.

In October 2011, a rash of catalytic converter thefts was reported.

Townsend and Marti encouraged residents to report car prowls to the police, even if nothing was stolen. Reports can be made with the Port Orchard Police Department or online at www.kitsap911.org.

 

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