Car prowls increasing as more people get outdoors under fewer COVID-19 restrictions in King County

More people are getting out to enjoy the spring weather and fewer COVID-19 restrictions as King County is under Phase 3 of the Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery plan.  As more people get outdoors, the Covington Police Department said this is leading to an uptick in crime, particularly car prowls in the city and throughout the region.

In an alert posted to the City of Covington’s Facebook page, the police department said criminals are taking advantage of people leaving valuables in their parked cars.

The department is one of 15 jurisdictions that subcontracts with the King County Sheriff’s Office. Sgt. Tim Meyer, public information officer for the county, said thieves are targeting areas near trailheads and retail parking lots lately.

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"These thieves are quick. They get in, they’re going to break glass, they’re going to find any way to gain entry and in just a moment they’ll find anything of value that you have left in your car," said Meyer. "The more people that are out, the more attractive target a parking lot might be for a thief. If you were to go back a few months where we were back a phase, there weren’t as many cars there, the opportunities weren’t as rich for car prowlers out there."

Meyer said jurisdictions have detectives dedicated to a Property Crimes Unit. However, he said investigating car prowls are sometimes complicated to investigate in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"With folks wearing masks, our solvability on crimes is going to be lower. Folks are more accustomed to seeing gloves. What seemed foreign a year ago is now not foreign today. So, we may not be able to identify that suspect as we did before," said Meyer.

Covington police said the other challenge law enforcement faces while investigating crimes is limited resources in the ongoing pandemic.

To lower risk and avoid suspects approaching someone’s car, law enforcement is urging everyone to get valuable items out of sight and lock up.

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"I don’t leave personal belongings there. I always have my purse with me. I always make sure I lock it up," said Rama Toulie, while taking her son to soccer practice at a park in Covington.

"Be careful of remotes. That’s going to be remotes for your car, but also remotes for your home. Those garage door openers can take a simple car prowl and make it a residential burglary. We want to make sure we don’t make it any easier for them than necessary," said Meyer.

"Just be on the lookout, not only for myself, but other people. If I notice something that was suspicious, I would certainly call 911," said Anita McCaslin, while walking her dog at a park in Covington.

Covington police said they have increased patrols in areas thieves are targeting. Officers said these thefts often lead to other crimes like fraud and identity theft. They are encouraging the community to plan ahead to help reduce the risk of becoming a victim.

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