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Car thefts up in Port Orchard

"A recent rise in auto thefts is leading Port Orchard police to warn people to think carefully about where and how they leave their vehicles.We had three stolen vehicles in four days, said Sgt. Mark Duncan. That's a high number for us and not necessarily a trend, but the county was having some at the same time. It's clearly an on-going problem, but there have been more thefts of cars here than ever before.While South Kitsap residents have been apprehended for some of the thefts, some of the perpetrators aren't the people next door. The thing that concerns us is there are a lot of recoveries in Tacoma, which makes us think people are coming from there and taking our cars, Duncan said. It's not an easy thing to find what we call 'rolling stolens,' but you'd be surprised how many we find.While it appears Hondas and Toyotas are the most commonly stolen car, Duncan said it really varies - sometimes brand new cars are stolen, but sometimes old beaters are stolen, too.That said, luxury cars like Mercedes Benzes and Lexuses don't usually turn up missing, perhaps because those cars are more easily identified and because they usually come equipped with anti-theft devices.Duncan encouraged car owners to invest in an anti-theft device of some sort, from a simple alarm to a sophisticated ignition-interrupt system. There are steering wheel locks, pedal locks and keys with microchips available on the market.He also suggested people park in well-lit areas, though the last car thefts in Port Orchard occurred in broad daylight. If (people) have garages or an enclosed area, they might think about clearing them out and using them, Duncan said.And, he said, don't ever leave valuables in the car for any reason, whether it's a purse, cell phone or face plate for a car stereo system. Sometimes it's easier for a car prowler to steal the whole car and rifle through it or disassemble it somewhere less conspicuous than to pry out the car stereo where the owner parked.Don't have hide-a-keys, Duncan added. Everyone knows where they are. If you can find them, they can be found by other people. Have extra keys made and keep one with you.While the average citizen can't assist police in tracking down stolen vehicles, people can serve as extra eyes and ears in places where car thefts typically occur - like parking lots or garages.Look for people around windows, staring in or peering in, Duncan said. If someone looks into more than one car, that's unusual behavior.Watch people around cars. When you go to a shopping center, check to make sure someone's not already looking into your car.He added license plate switching could be a red flag, too. While there are reasons for people to switch the plates on their cars occasionally, people don't normally choose to do it in a parking garage or mall parking lot.The most frustrating thing for police about car theft, besides its recent proliferation, is that car thiefs don't normally serve much in the way of jail time, giving them the opportunity to steal a lot of cars during their careers.The frustrating thing for victims, besides walking to the spot at the park-and-ride and finding the car is gone, is recovered stolen vehicles rarely come back in the same condition in which they left. They are virtually always damaged in some way, every time, Duncan said. Generally, people driving stolen cars don't take very good care of them. "

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