Wave of car prowls in Kent: Numbers going down

The number of weekly vehicle prowls jumped to 33 from 17 in the city of Kent in mid-August from mid-July.

Kent Police Officers Jeff Kluzak

Kent Police Officers Jeff Kluzak

The number of weekly vehicle prowls jumped to 33 from 17 in the city of Kent in mid-August from mid-July.

Stereos, cameras, compact discs, cash, laptops, portable media players and other valuable items became a prime target for thieves over the last several weeks throughout the city.

“It’s been terrible,” said Kent Police Lt. Ken Thomas in a phone interview Wednesday.

Thirty-three vehicle prowls were reported the week of Aug. 12-18 compared to 17 the week of July 15-21.

But with a combination of police crackdowns on car prowlers and an effort by residents to keep valuable items out of sight in their vehicles, Thomas expects the numbers to start to decrease.

“That’s our hope,” Thomas said. “We’ve already seen car prowls start to go down and the numbers (stats) usually flow behind.”

Vehicle prowls dropped to 24 for the week of Aug. 19-25.

Over the last few weeks, police have arrested seven people for vehicle prowls, vehicle thefts or residential burglaries. Those three crimes are often committed by the same individuals, according to Thomas.

“They’re not just a car prowler, an auto thief or a burglar,” Thomas said. “They commit these crimes to get property to sell for money to obtain drugs.”

Most of the men and women arrested for property crimes are trying to get money to buy methamphetamine, Thomas said.

The highly addictive street drug, has fueled crimes nationally for a number of years.

The police receive weekly crime-trend reports compiled by Kent’s crime analyst Kevin Axelson. As soon as officers saw the number of car prowls increase, one officer reported that he had a good lead on groups of individuals who might be responsible for the crimes.

Through interviews with individuals arrested for vehicle theft, burglaries or other similar crimes, police officers and detectives identified at least three groups of individuals suspected to be involved in the vehicle prowls.

“We knew there were three groups very active in the city,” Thomas said.

Detectives, street-patrol officers, Neighborhood Response Team officers and members of the Special Investigations Unit worked together to find the individuals responsible for the vehicle prowls.

The groups police focused on included men and women from their late teens to their early 30s, Thomas said.

“Not all of the car prowls are only done by these groups,” Thomas said. “We also have young adults and kids who do it and the random criminal. But we focused on the repeat offender from the criminal groups.”

Vehicle prowlers strike all over the city from the East Hill to the Valley to the West Hill. Apartment complexes, shopping centers, parking garages and even a fast-food restaurant and dentist’s office popped up on a recent city crime list for locations of car prowls.

Police try to determine methods, trends and the when and where of vehicle prowls based on the statistics they receive each week for all of the prowls rather than looking at an individual case.

Officers also know that many of those arrested tend to rat out their cohorts.

“Once we’ve made arrests, they talk about what they’ve done and about others,” Thomas said.

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or shunter@reporternewspapers.com.

Car prowls

The number of reported vehicle prowls over the last six weeks in Kent:

• July 15-21: 17.

• July 22-28: 18.

• July 29-Aug. 4: 26.

• Aug. 5-11: 31.

• Aug. 12-18: 33.

• Aug. 19-25: 24.

Source – Kent Police Department.

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