Seattle police using data on car prowl 'hot spots' to combat the thefts

SEATTLE -- Car prowls can happen anywhere in the city -- day or night -- and you only have to leave your car for a second.

"I went to my car and it looked like the window was open and I was surprised and when I opened it it was unlocked and when I got in there I could see it was rifled through and the phone was gone," Gregorio Bustamante said Thursday.

That was in Belltown.

Ashley Stalwick's car was broken into on Capitol Hill.

"We were parked right outside a very populated area and they just busted out the windows and stole whatever was in there that they could find,"  Ashley Stalwick said.

Bustamante and Stalwick aren't alone.

A lot of people fell victim in the same two locations.

Those are hot spots for car prowls, police say.

Car prowls are happening all over but you have the best chance of becoming a victim in the downtown core and on Capitol Hill.

"Even just parked outside of my house, my mom went out to her car and found that somebody had tried to break into it. She'd only been in my house about a half-hour and she left her purse sitting on the seat,” Stalwick said.

Police call it a crime of opportunity.

"It doesn't really surprise me. It doesn't seem to be any way to stop it. I mean it's just smash and grab,” Stalwick said.

SPD calls this new initiative SEASTAT.

It was launched in August and allows the department to gather data, define the problem and help them find a solution.

It's already proved successful when focused on armed robberies on Capitol Hill -- the result was a sharp drop in attacks.

No specific plan has been proposed to counter the car prowls but precinct captains are now looking at the data to determine the best way to deal with the problem.

Until then,  Stalwick hopes we can all learn from her mistakes.

"Don't leave a thing in your car. If it's not in your trunk or hidden from sight don't leave it in there and if it's important don't leave it in there at all,” Stalwick said.

SPD will use the data to zero in on areas where the problem is greatest and focus resources, officers on foot in cars, on bikes and in plain clothes to reduce the problem.