Residential areas in the Heights were hit hard by a rash of car prowls last week.
The latest thefts from 10 vehicles between June 27-29 followed 61 incidents throughout Hood River County since the first of the year. Local law enforcement officials estimate that more than $20,000 of stereos, CDs and other electronic equipment have been stolen to date.
City Detective Andy Rau said car prowls currently rank second to fraud as Hood River’s biggest crime problem. He said the replacement costs tabulated by the city and county do not include the repair bills for vehicles damaged during entry or enactment of the thefts.
“This is a serious crime that affects the whole community by bringing higher insurance rates and a loss in the sense of security,” said Rau.
On Monday city police recovered some personal identification and other items without resale value that had been dumped in a trash container at the Little League field on Nix Road. But Rau and Hood River County Detective Gerry Tiffany believe the stolen electronic equipment is probably being sold somewhere in the Portland-metro area.
The two officials said the car prowls are probably being committed by teens and young adults, most likely with the driver dropping one or more thieves off on foot during the night hours to avoid attracting attention. The culprits are picked back up once they have stripped the chosen cars of their valuables.
“Its very hard to catch a car prowler because the patrol officer is in a vehicle and the thief can just slip out of sight when he/she hears the car approaching,” said Rau.
Both he and Tiffany contend that, while patrols will increase, citizen vigilance plays a key role in catching the suspects.
“Anyone who notices unusual behavior in the neighborhood should report it immediately,” said Tiffany.
Community Resource Officer Aaron Jubitz will help city neighborhoods develop a plan of action at a series of community meetings that begin next week. The first meeting for Zone 9, which takes in the most recently targeted areas, will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the municipal courtroom at Second and State streets.
“Car prowls will be our number one topic of discussion,” said Jubitz.
The city police and sheriff’s office are asking residents throughout the county to take the following precautions:
* Park the car in a well-lit area that faces the street where anyone tampering with it is more likely to be seen.
* Remove the keys from the ignition, close all windows and lock the doors — regardless of the length of time it will be left unattended.
* Never leave articles of value or personal identification within plain view.
* Install an anti-theft device.
* Purchase stereo components, cellular phones, radar detectors or CBs that can be removed from their brackets and placed in a more secure location when parking.
* At the time of purchase, insist that the technician who installs the stereo inscribe your driver’s license or vehicle identification number on the equipment.
* Keep all manufacturer paperwork and warranty information, along with component serial numbers, in a secure location.
* Report suspicious persons who are observed looking into cars or trying door handles.
* Using a permanent market, write your driver’s license number or last name on the face of each audio CD at the time of purchase.
“People need to make sure to have an identifiable mark on their equipment because it is very difficult to recover stolen property that has been left unmarked,” Rau said.
Anyone with information about the car prowls is asked to call Rau at 386-3942 or Tiffany at 386-2098. Jubitz can be reached about the zoning meetings at 387-5258.