Tag Archives: car prowl

Car prowls in Seattle get short shrift compared to here

The in basket: Retired sheriff’s deputy Terry Miller called my attention recently to a column by Danny Westneat in the Seattle Times, detailing his frustration in getting Seattle Police to help out when his daughter and he tracked down a cell phone they lost when his car window was smashed at Woodland Park.

They used the phone’s GPS locator to track the phone, and then watched what vehicle drove away when they saw the phone was on the move. They followed it.

But telling the emergency dispatcher they were hot on the trail of those who had the stolen phone didn’t change the dispatcher’s instruction to forget about it and call their insurance company.

“We reported the make and model, the license plate and the location,” he wrote. “But the dispatcher was dismissive. Go home and file an insurance claim, she said.”

The saga continued, and you can read the whole alarming Oct. 31 column on the Times’ Web site. Ultimately, he wrote, “the thieves knew we were following them — because one held our iPhone up to us and shook it, as if to say, ‘Here it is, come and get it!’

“The next day,” he wrote, “when I called some glass-repair companies, no one blinked at this story. Happens every day, they said. In fact, some thieves want you to track them, so they can try to sell your stolen stuff back to you. That’s how confident they are the police are no threat.”

I asked our local police it Danny would have had better luck on this side of the Sound.

The out basket: Chief Al Townsend of Poulsbo police was the first to respond.

“I am extremely confident he would have had better luck here,” Al said. “In fact, I’d be willing to guarantee it. In Poulsbo we would take the initial report as well.  Persons have the option of having an officer come to them or using the on-line reporting software which every agency provides to the public.

“Our cops would be excited to know that the iPhone was in the bag for tracking purposes.  We might not travel to Seattle to catch them, but I’m confident that if the same case happened in Poulsbo, we would be happy to travel within Kitsap to track them down!

“Realizing our call volume is considerably different that Seattle, it would be a sad day in Kitsap when we aren’t willing to go the extra distance to find these miscreants. And, frankly, I think it’s a sad day for Seattle.”

Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police agreed, “We take these reports and investigate them at the patrol level if there are leads to follow.  Given the fact pattern in the article, I’m confident the victims would have had a much different experience here in Bremerton.”

Chief Matt Hamner of Bainbridge police said, “I have no doubt that our officers would have responded and exhausted any leads they had. They are extremely responsive to the citizens of  Bainbridge Island. We have traveled to Roanoke, Virginia, to capture a burglar recently.  We want to keep our citizens safe.”

Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office said, “The sheriff’s office concurs with the opinions as voiced by our colleagues from municipal law enforcement agencies in Kitsap County.

Sheriff Steve Boyer said, “The frustration felt by victims and sheriff’s deputies in dealing with property crimes is high,. The answer lies in a little luck, quite a bit of patience and a lot of determination.  Deputies respond to the complaint, document the facts and follow-through with the investigation.  Success often occurs weeks or months later.”

“There are a number of variables to every 9-1-1 report,” Scott said. “Vehicle prowls or thefts from vehicles are no exception. From time to time there may be evidence that sheriff’s patrol deputies can use to identify suspects; frequently there isn’t.

“In any case the call will be dispatched and a deputy will make initial contact with the complainant / victim.  Follow-up investigation occurs as evidence develops or additional criminal information comes to our attention.

“In several instances, a single reported vehicle prowl may, by itself, not yield anything to investigate from an evidence perspective. However, that one incident may be part of an aggregate number of vehicle prowls / burglaries that sheriff’s patrol deputies and detectives are able to use to their advantage in determining the identity of suspects, ie:  one piece of a property crime puzzle.”

Port Orchard Chief Geoff Marti was more circumspect. “The Port Orchard police department strives to provide good fundamental police service and investigation,” he said. “All departments have some degree of failure in the endeavor. If a citizen is not pleased with our response or investigation we have a procedure in place to provide answers, feedback and resolution to the issue. All police agencies are eventually accountable to the community they serve.”



Aging keyless remote threat not much to worry about

The in basket: I was cleaning out my old e-mail messages the other day and found one from a friend, sent in August 2008, warning of a supposed new way for thieves to break into your car.

The e-mail, with “This has been checked on Snopes” displayed prominently, told of code-grabbing devices that snatches the code of your keyless entry device when you use it to lock your vehicle as you walk away. The e-mail says the thieves then use the code to enter your car, confident that you’ll be away for a while.

Use the lock button inside your car instead, it said. It didn’t mention using the key in the outside lock, but I’d think that would work too.

Snopes, of course, is Snopes.com, which is highly regarded as an online source of debunking warnings and rumors that need debunking. I checked to see if the claim of its support for that e-mail was valid.

The out basket: If it really was checked on Snopes, it was then sent out despite the fact that Snopes calls most of it out of date. The site even quoted the e-mail sent to me word for word in its dismissal of the danger.

Cars with keyless remotes from the 1980s or early 1990s are susceptible to code grabbers, Snopes says, but the industry devised rolling random codes that would take hours and a lot of expertise to capture, essentially eliminating the chance a thief in the parking lot with you could get into your car anywhere near quickly enough to do it safely.

Of course, if you are a diamond merchant who carries his inventory with him, it might be worth it to a thief who knows that to track your car down after the arduous capture is complete, but for the ordinary citizen, it’s safe to use your keyless entry.

“None of the police agencies we spoke to had ever heard of an automobile break-in accomplished by the method described,” Snopes said.

The Snopes item has been updated since discussing the e-mail and mentions a different threat to keyless entries expected to be displayed at security symposium in San Diego in February of this year. But the system costs a lot, and requires two antennas, one of which must be within eight meters of the key and the other near the car, it said. Snopes expects the industry to work on defeating it too.

If all that still leaves a nagging doubt in your mind, locking your car with your key and using the remote to open it when you plan to drive away would preserve half of the utility of your keyless remote.