Bellevue Police scored another success Wednesday in their efforts to put the brakes on auto theft in the area, with a "bait car" parked at Bellevue Community College leading to two arrests.
Car theft, a growing problem for the Puget Sound region, dropped by 16 percent last year in Bellevue. The International Association of Chiefs of Police last fall recognized the city's efforts by awarding the Bellevue Police its 2006 Vehicle Theft Award of Merit.
Good police work by patrol and traffic officers and property crimes detectives were key to Wednesday's arrests, but elements of the department's campaign against auto theft -- technology and a Special Enforcement Team of detectives -- were essential.
Bait cars are equipped with after-market electronics that allow them to be tracked by GPS, disabled remotely and locked with suspects inside. On Wednesday afternoon, a 27-year-old Kent man's attempt at auto theft was doomed when he picked a bait car. Police were able to trail and arrest him after the car was disabled on an Interstate 405 on-ramp.
SET detectives arrested an accomplice in Kent Wednesday evening.
Targeting Auto Theft with Community Help
While most crime has been dropping in Bellevue, auto theft had been rising since 2002, from 545 that year to a high of 607 in 2004. As a result, all divisions in the Police Department, from detectives to bike officers to crime lab technicians, began focusing on car thieves.
At National Night Out and other occasions, officers are educating the public about how to protect their cars from theft. A few simple precautions can go a long way. Detectives also pursue leads and conduct surveillance beyond Bellevue's boundaries to apprehend the worst offenders in the city and region.
The drop in auto thefts in Bellevue, at a time when car thefts are a growing problem regionally, can be attributed to a combined effort across several disciplines.
- Enforcement: The Special Enforcement Team and property and auto crimes detectives have tracked down prolific vehicle crimes offenders. Additionally, patrol officers process the scene of vehicle crimes, including fingerprinting, and bike officers patrol car theft hot spots.
- Technology: In addition to bait cars, police employ portable agent alarms, covert cameras and other technological tools to watch, even when no one is around. Crime lab analysis and processing links offenders to multiple crimes, resulting in higher bail and longer sentences. Crime analysis generates bulletins and area watch lists that keep officers informed of the most active offenders and their preferred methods.
- Education: During the 2005 Night Out event, officers instructed more than 2,000 people how to protect against car theft. Community station officers continue this activity year-round by giving informational meetings, providing flyers and tips and contacting businesses to gain cooperation with good lighting, signage and landscaping in their areas. At the Community Academy, offered twice a year, people who live or work in Bellevue can take a series of classes taught by department experts on a variety of subjects.
- Prosecution: Bellevue Police have worked closely with the King County Prosecutor’s Office to ensure that suspects face high bail while awaiting trial and receive longer sentences.
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