Car thefts rates soaring in Bremerton

If you walked down your Bremerton driveway in 2001 and found your car missing, you were not alone.

If you returned from a trip to Seattle to find your pick-up truck missing-in-action at a Bremerton parking garage, you also are not alone.

Vehicles thefts in Bremerton grew an astronomical 60 percent in 2001, according to Bremerton Chief of Police Rob Forbes.

There is one piece of good news in the escalating crime statistic.

“The vast majority are recovered,” Forbes said of pilfered vehicles.

Forbes said vehicles are often not stripped or destroyed — proof, he said, that the city has not been targeted by professional car thieves.

“They are not sophisticated,” Forbes said of car larcenists. “It is a crime of opportunity.”

Opportunities must be everywhere. These statistics include vehicles stolen in Bremerton or recovered here from other jurisdictions:

l 1998: 222 thefts.

l 1999: 216 thefts.

l 2000: 219 thefts.

l 2001: 352 thefts.

Forbes is not entirely stumped by the 60 percent increase and attributes much of it to a single source.

“Drugs are always on the radar screen,” Forbes said. “There are so many crimes that spin off the drug scene.”

Forbes also said car thieves know their crime is usually “non-punitive.” Courts and jails are so backlogged with violent crime offenders, that the property crime of auto theft is not a prosecutor’s prime focus.

“More punishment could be looked at as more of a deterrent,” Forbes said.

“At times it gets frustrating (to police) that people can perpetrate crimes and not face justice in an expeditious manner,” Forbes said.

Though Forbes said more officers patrolling Bremerton streets might cut down on vehicles thefts, “We just don’t have the resources.”

Even when a stolen vehicle is found, traffic division officers or detectives “have very little to go on” to solve the crime.

Forbes said thieves will break a vehicle’s window, hot wire the ignition and be gone — all “in seconds.”

After the vehicle runs out of gas, or the joy goes out of the joyride, thieves will abandon the vehicle in various stages of disrepair.

Frequently, stereos, CD players, or any electronics, cameras, tools or equipment will have been stripped for drug money.

“It all gets back to selling more dope,” Forbes said.

The cars recovered in Bremerton not claimed immediately by owners are taken to Chico Towing lots on North Wycoff Avenue. If the owners don’t claim them after 45-60 days, by state law, they are sold at auction for between $5 to $100, said Stacey Tucker, owner of Chico Towing.

“More are closer to $5 than $100,” Tucker said.

Cars stolen in Bremerton match national profiles of the most frequently stolen vehicles: Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords and Honda Civics.

Forbes said the brazenness car thieves show in stealing vehicles in day time or public areas might amaze average citizens.

“People in the drug culture don’t think like you and I do, “ Forbes said. “They take risks.”

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