Bellevue Police: 'Organized crime' ring of car prowlers under arrest

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- An Impala, a Buick and a Dodge Charger. An unusual collection in the Bellevue Police Department motor pool.

But they’re cop cars now.

Capt. Marcia Harnden lords over the spoils of a bust months in the making, nabbing nearly a dozen suspected thieves who pilfered cars across different cities and counties.

“This group is organized, they plan, they do research. They watch their victims,” she said.

And it's not over-the-top to call this "organized crime."

Even though the crimes are small-scale, they happened so frequently and with tendrils from Spokane to Kitsap County that investigators say it became a system:

Break in, get a car, or something sitting in the open, and then launder the money through gift card sales and use the cash to fuel gang activity.

There’s been $100,000 worth of stolen goods in Bellevue alone.

“That's a huge amount of money that is going to a bigger, nefarious group,” Harnden said.

The bust was named "Operation Radcliffe," in honor of the 22-year-old son of a Seattle police officer who was killed during a car break-in in January.

Moises Radcliffe was trying to stop the car prowl as it was happening, and ended up being hit by the getaway car.

“We felt that it was important to honor his memory and also show people that this is a much bigger issue than just random car prowls,” Harnden said.

Police say it’s possible those arrested are connected to the crew that killed Radcliffe. Convictions could bring some justice and more closed cases.

Police found two handguns inside the seized cars and they're now being tested to see if they were used elsewhere, the Bellevue Police Department said in a news release.

One crime leading into another across the region.

“Our car prowls are your car prowls,” Harnden said.