Thieves prowl cars in unlikely places; protecting your property from smash and grabs

SEATTLE -- The Montlake neighborhood email listserv has become a forum for car prowls in the past month. And neighbors are shocked about how brazen some of the thieves are becoming.

“I was in the building five minutes,” Zoe Barsness said, after becoming a victim when she ran her daughter into Montlake Elementary School. “Everything was gone and the drivers side window was broken.

She left her computer bag in the car, with her cell phone sitting on the front seat.

“I even thought that I shouldn’t leave the bag in the car,” Barsness said. “And I thought, ‘Ah, it’s heavy and I’m just running in for two minutes’ and that’s all it took.”

Barsness isn’t alone. With every post on the Montlake listserv or Nextdoor, more neighbors reveal their crimes. Even our producer, Darien Laird, who lives in the neighborhood, became a victim in her own driveway when her car was stolen. Several other cars were broken into on her street that same night.

“Four cars in the street. Who knows, maybe more. I mean we haven’t talked to everyone in the street. We just emailed our entire neighborhood.”

Seattle Police have a list of recommendations for avoiding car prowls on their website, including locking your doors, clearing the floor and seats of personal items, parking in well lit areas or installing motion detector lights in your driveway.

“If you’re going to park it on the street, take that extra step.” Detective Patrick Michaud said. “Go out and buy the Club, spend $20.”

The last thing they recommend, look around the area before leaving your car.

Barsness said, in her case, that didn’t help.

“There was even somebody walking their dog, there were two guys working on a house across the street. None of whom said they saw anything.”

Some victims say they report their break ins, others don’t. But Seattle police say you should always call or report them online.

Barsness said when she tried to report hers, it took several days to contact SPD because they were dealing with other emergency calls. This worries her. She says something more needs to be done by police to protect her neighborhood.

“Either we’re not funding the police on sufficiently high levels or there’s not a priority on community policing.”