'Tis the season... for car prowlers, police warn

OLYMPIA - If you’ve still got some shopping to do this holiday season, watch out when you head to the mall.

Police in Olympia say they saw an increase in car prowls around shopping areas this weekend.

Shoppers at Capital Mall seemed surprised when they heard about a series of break-ins in and around the parking lot.

“It’s scary, because you want to feel safe just going to the mall,” says Edith Vanderwal.

But police say the mall is a target, because many shoppers are distracted and leave holiday purchases in their cars. Olympia police say they’ve had 437 car prowls so far this year. That’s up from 399 for all of 2013.

“Usually we put them in the trunk,” says Mckayla Hartsock. “There have been a few instances where we just leave them in the back of the car. And you don’t really think about it when you’re in the stores, but it’s definitely something to think about it.”

We tagged along with Lynnwood police last month, as they looked for cars that could be possible targets.

“In this one we see a box. It could be high end shoes,” says Detective Robert Degabrielem. ”if they think it`s valuable, they`re going to take it. ``

They say a thief can get in and out of your car in less than a minute, because they know exactly where to look.

“Don`t leave any item in your vehicle," Degabrielem said. "They know the game. They look under seats, they know blankets over items in the car.”

Olympia police say they’ll be patrolling parking lots this holiday season, leaving warnings on the windshields of cars that have too much left out. They say if you do have to drop bags off in your car, you should move your car in case a thief is watching. Shoppers say they’ll be more careful now.

“It gets me worried, because just one mistake and someone can break into your car so easily,” says Emily Fourtner.

“I wouldn’t want my stuff to get stolen, especially when you’re spending your hard earning money and it’s gone,” says Vanderwal.

Capital Mall says shoppers can also ask stores to hold their purchases until they’re ready to leave. They also want shoppers to know that they have their own security year-round.