Car prowls spike, but you can deter them

prowler breks into car and steals wallet from front seatIt's old advice: Police say never leave valuables in your vehicle, and lock it. After 150 recent Seattle-area car prowls, that message is especially timely.

Bellevue police have led the charge in arresting 13 people and identifying 40 suspects in car prowls ranging from Kitsap County to Seattle to virtually the entire Eastside.

The ring of thieves began by targeting Bellevue parks, working in teams of two or three. Police believe the crooks would shadow drivers who park and stash their purses, wallets, and valuables under the seat or in the trunk before walking away, at which point the prowlers swoop in for the smash-and-grab.

If they found plastic, the suspects quickly used it to buy gift cards and redeem them for cash.

Police are calling their crackdown "Operation Radcliffe" in honor of Moises Radcliffe, a 22-year-old man who died last winter at Beaver Lake Park while trying to stop a car prowl.

You can deter thieves from breaking into your car. Remember, they're opportunistic crimes that often take less than 60 seconds.

  • The most obvious tips is, don't leave valuables in plain sight.

  • If you can't take valuables with you when you leave the vehicle, hide them out of sight several blocks away from where you intend to park.

  • When it's dark, park in a well-lit, highly visible space.

  • two women load gifts into car trunkWhen entering a secure parking garage, make sure the door fully closes behind you before proceeding.

  • Never leave a remote control for garages inside your parked vehicle.

  • When holiday shopping, do not carry purchases to your vehicle, stash them, then return inside to shop more. Crooks might be watching.
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