Highline Area Vehicle Thefts Again on Increase; Police Offer Prevention Tips

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by Ralph Nichols

Highline-area cities, along with the rest of King County, are experiencing an increase in stolen vehicles since late last year.

“This time of year,” said King County Sheriff’s Detective Andrew Skaar, “it is common for people who want to warm up their vehicle before leaving in the morning when the windshield is iced or fogged over.”

But, Skaar told The B-Town Blog, “We have had several reports of thefts of vehicles being warmed up while the owners went back in their house or apartment.”

Now, he added, there is at least one “crew of people out there specifically targeting cars running in driveways and apartment parking lots in addition to the thieves who do it as a crime of opportunity.

“A few seconds with an ice scraper could mean the difference between driving or walking to work.”

In 2009, vehicle thefts in King County steadily declined to a low of 7,700. But last year, Skaar noted, “we were back up to 8,941 and so far we are on track to match that this year.”

And despite the frequency of vehicle thefts in cold weather and during the holiday shopping season, he said the highest months in King County last year were June and July.

Skaar offered several tips from the Washington Auto Theft Authority website – watpa.waspc.org – to reduce the chances of your vehicle being stolen:

  • Take your keys with you. One out of every five vehicles stolen had the keys in it.
  • Lock your car. Almost half of all vehicles stolen were left unlocked.
  • Don’t hide a second set of keys in your car. Extra keys can easily be found if a thief takes time to look.
  • Park in well-lighted areas.
  • Park in attended lots. Auto thieves do not like witnesses and prefer unattended parking lots.
  • Only give the ignition/door key to a parking attendant. If your trunk and glove box use the same key as the door, have one of them changed.
  • Don’t leave your car running unattended. Vehicles are also commonly stolen at convenience stores, gas stations, ATMs, etc.
  • Completely close car windows when parking. Don’t make it any easier for the thief to enter your vehicle.
  • Make your car tough to tow away. Park with your wheels turned towards the curb. Wheels should also be turned to the side in driveways and parking lots.
  • Don’t leave valuables in plain view. Don’t make your car a more desirable target and attract for thieves.

And, Skaar reminded, packages and valuables left in cars are a magnet for thieves year round, not just during the Christmas shopping season.

“Any items left in plain view from the outside are tempting to thieves, especially electronic items like GPSs or cell phones.”

Thieves also look for the suction cup mark on the windshield as a sign of a tempting GPS that may have been thrown in the glove box.

“A car alarm is good but a thief can be in and out of your car before anyone even notices it going off. It’s also surprising how many people keep a spare key in their car.” 

Burglars also break into cars parked at businesses, concerts and sporting events, churches – even funerals – “and use the address off of paperwork inside the car to go to the person’s house to break in,” Skaar said.

“And make sure to keep any alarm codes or garage door openers for the house secure as these have to be used for burglary as well.”

He also advised that vehicle owners protect their investment by following NCIB’s “layered approach” to auto theft protection “to make their vehicles less attractive to thieves.”

These four layers of protection are:

  1. Common Sense: Lock your car and take your keys.
  2. Warning Device: Having and using a visible or audible warning device can ensure that your car remains where you left it.
  3. Immobility Device: “Kill” switches, fuel cut-offs, and smart keys – high and low tech – are extremely helpful. Generally speaking, if your car won’t start, it won’t get stolen.
  4. Tracking Device: If your vehicle is stolen, these systems help law enforcement track and recover it quickly. Some systems even inform you if your vehicle has been moved without your knowledge.

Skaar noted that “you can do your part in helping to stop this criminal activity by reporting fraud and vehicle theft to NICB at 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422). Your call will be anonymous and you could be eligible for a reward.”

Or you may report fraud or theft by visiting the NICB website at www.nicb.org.

“We may not be able to stop all car thefts,” he concluded, “but following these tips can make your vehicle a difficult or less desirable target.”

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