Car prowl prevention tips from SPD

Car prowls continue to top Queen Anne (and Seattle) crime stats. We get reports of car prowls on a regular basis that range from a prowler rummaging through a car to broken windows. For the latter, remember to remove all items from your vehicle, even bags or boxes that have nothing of value in them. Prowlers can’t tell what’s in them until they get into your car and check them out.

Because car prowls are so common, our Seattle Police Department Crime Prevention Coordinator sent out a flyer with tips from SPD. Many are common sense, but if you’re new to the area, you may not realize just how everyday (or, rather, everynight) these incidents are in our neighborhood.

Check them out and remember to report car prowls to SPD. You can report crimes via the SPD Community Online Reporting Program (CORP) or by calling the non-emergency number at 206-625-5011.

If you see a crime in progress, call 911.

SPD Car Prowls

Car prowls continue to rise with 87 Queen Anne reports in October

How many car prowls did Queen Anne have in October? A whopping 87 by our count of Seattle Police Department reports. That’s up from September, when we had  just over 60 car prowls. Now, that we’re closing in on 90, what’s next? Triple digits?

The Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat has published a follow-up to his car prowl article. You may recall the original piece – his car was prowled, he tracked and found the suspects, SPD did nothing. Turns out that the suspects are repeat offenders and were featured on Washington’s Most Wanted this past week.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

My brazen car prowlers turn out to be state’s ‘Most Wanted’
By Danny Westneat
Seattle Times staff columnist

Last week I wrote about how the police mostly ignored my family’s repeated calls to come and bust a vanload of car prowlers that my 14-year-old daughter had tracked using an iPhone app. The thieves were so brazen they held up our stolen stuff in plain view. But we were told by police dispatchers to go home and file an insurance claim.

As it turns out, these weren’t just any car prowlers. They were Washington’s Most Wanted!

… It turns out all three had warrants out for their arrests. Police believe they may have smashed into hundreds of cars stretching back to May.

Last week, as the thieves coincidentally were being arrested, the “Washington Most Wanted” TV program planned to air a feature on them.

You can read the full story here – and, if you’re wondering how we’re doing on car prowls for October, we’ve pulled the map and included it below.

When counting, we include south of the Ship Canal to Denny Way, and Elliott/15th Ave W to Lake Union with Broad St as the northeast border.

Reminder: SPD only logs reports of car prowls where something of value was taken – if your car is empty and rummaged through, it doesn’t hit the SPD map. But, if anything is taken, even spare change, report it online so it hits the database.

QA Car Prowls Oct 2014

The Seattle Times covers the frustrating problem of car prowls

September 2014 Car Prowls

Queen Anne car prowls in September 2014

We all know that car prowls are an every night occurrence on Queen Anne. There are so many in our neighborhood (and across the city), that some months we have trouble keeping up with the counts – and those are just the ones that can be reported to SPD.

In September, we had over 60 car prowls and a repeat prowler caught on video by a Queen Anne resident – but nothing has happened to cut down on the nightly rounds of our local car prowlers. (note: we had several media requests resulting from this post, but nothing came of them)

As noted before, you can report car prowls online, but the report requires that something of value be taken. It’s almost like you have to leave spare change in your car so you can report something of value to log the statistic with SPD. It’s not enough that someone entered your car and rummaged through it, they have to take something too.

But, even if something is taken, it often seems that nothing is done. Now, car prowls are getting bigger attention. The Seattle Times has an article on car prowls that describes the issue with car prowls, calling them a “growth industry” that SPD allows to thrive.

Car prowling seems to have become a full time job for many criminals. It’s easy to do, hard to get caught, and the penalty is… well, read the Seattle Times article for a first-hand account of tracking a car prowler and SPD’s response.

Here’s an excerpt, go to the Seattle Times for the full article – and check out the comments, there are hundreds:

Police allow car break-ins to become a Seattle growth industry
By Danny Westneat, Seattle Times

If your car is broken into and your stuff stolen, don’t bother calling the police. They won’t come even if you track down the thieves yourself.


In the past two weeks, there were an astonishing 426 smash-and-grabs reported in Seattle. A few years back, we did a front-page story about how car prowls had become the city’s top crime, with 370 in a two-week period. My thieves — unlike me — are working in a growth industry.

Seattle police, I get that this is petty crime. It’s on me for leaving stuff in the car. There also was no proof who did the smash-and-grab, so even if you had come, it would have been tricky to charge them with anything.

But it doesn’t take a detective to see how punting an entire crime category over to the insurance industry could cause these types of nuisance crimes to spiral out of control. One warning sign: In Seattle, the more serious car thefts are up a whopping 44 percent this year versus last.

Can we at least start making these thieves feel a little heat? Especially when they’re served right up for you in a silver minivan?

You can read about Danny’s frustrating experience with a car prowl in the full article. And, in the meantime, the only thing it seems we can do is double or triple check that our cars are locked every night. And, leave nothing of value in your car, unless you want to be able to file a report.

Queen Anne car prowls ranked against other neighborhoods

The Seattle PI ran a story with stats on car prowls from June 2010 to the present, broken out by the Seattle Police Department beat map. For those of you unfamiliar with the map, Queen Anne falls into the West Precinct, and our beats are:

Beats Q2 Q3 D1Q2 – Queen Anne north of Galer, portion of East Queen Anne west of 5th Ave N and north of Boston

Q3 – Queen Anne south of Galer to Denny Way (includes portion of Lower Queen Anne)

D1 – Lower Queen Anne and portion of East Queen Anne east of 5th Ave N, south of Boston, and north of Denny Way

With those boundaries outlined, here are the total car prowls since June 2010 and how they rank with other lucky “top” neighborhoods… And, note, many neighborhoods have multiple “beats” just as we do. Full city map provided for reference (and clickable for larger views).

BeatMap1) M3 – Downtown – 1328

2) D1 – Queen Anne – 1188

3) K3 – SODO – 809

4) J2 – Ballard – 769

5) J1 – Green Lake – 788

6) E2 – Capitol Hill – 664

7) D3 – Downtown – 642

8) M2 – Downtown – 622

9) K1 – Downtown – 620

10) D2 – SLU – 605


14) Q2 – Queen Anne – 536

19) Q1 – Magnolia – 470

27) Q3 – Queen Anne – 536

Overall, the really bad news is for those who live in D1, but Q2 is just a few spots outside of the top 10. Lucky Queen Anne residents who live in Q3 are outside of the top 25 (but, it’s still not good news).

Please note, these stats go back to June 2010, and per reader email and knowledge of the activity around my block, these may have spiked in recent months. Keep items out of sight (or even better, don’t keep anything of value in your car), and report prowls and break-ins. You can check out SPD’s prevention tips here.

Remember to report all crimes and suspicious activity to SPD by calling 911 or the non-emergency number (206.625.5011). If someone breaks into your car, but doesn’t take anything, still report it – this is how SPD builds their database of crime statistics. Car prowls can also be reported online.

January Queen Anne Car Prowls & Thefts

Several readers have emailed or posted in the Forum about their experience with car prowls. From the Forum, a poster described her experience with a car prowl at Galer and 1st West, and another resident cited one at 9th Ave W and W Bothwell St. Via email, we received reports of frequent prowls on 9th Ave W between Halladay and Raye, and a reader who’s car has been rummaged through twice in the past few months.

We’ve pulled the SPD stats for January car crimes (prowls and thefts) from the SPD Report map– and there was nearly a car prowl a day on Queen Anne in January. There were also a number of car thefts, bringing the total number of car crimes to 49 for the month.

Here’s what the total map looks like – car prowls + car thefts (49) for January – note, only incidents reported to SPD show up on the map:

And, here are the breakouts for car prowls (26) and car thefts (23) – click the maps for larger views:

Car Prowls, January 2013

Car Thefts, January 2013

I contacted Francisco Tello, SPD Crime Prevention Program Coordinator East and West Precinct, for more information on preventing car prowls. In addition to keeping any items out of sight and reporting car prowls to SPD, Tello also encourages people to report suspicious behavior. For example, a Queen Anne resident emailed him about a man looking into every parked car as he walked down the middle of Warren Ave N, and they had a good description of the man, a specific time of day, and a location – all excellent information for SPD.

In this example, and for other suspicious activities and people, Tello advises calling 911 as soon as possible. Here are the key items of information that help SPD when you call 911:

  • Good description of the person
  • Location – street name, number or hundred block, or address
  • Direction of travel
  • Another key tip: Tello advises practicing describing people, as when incidents happen, it’s typically sudden and you’ll want to be able to provide a useful description. Some items that will help SPD: race, gender, height, weight, age, clothing, and any distinguishing features. Are they carrying a backpack? What color is it?

    Remember to report all crimes and suspicious activity to SPD by calling 911 or the non-emergency number (206.625.5011). If someone breaks into your car, but doesn’t take anything, report it – this is how SPD builds their database of crime statistics. For more on reporting crimes, see the recap of the SPD Queen Anne Community Meeting.

    And, to end on an up-note, SPD’s West Precinct Anti-Crime Team (ACT) conducted a car prowl detail on January 19th, arresting two suspects for car prowling in the vicinity of 900 Block of Westlake Avenue North.

    SPD arrests suspected neighborhood car prowler

    The Seattle Police Department’s west precinct crime prevention coordinator Francisco Tello sent the following update on local crime activity to neighborhood block watch captains Wednesday:

    More good news! Alert neighbors are reporting suspicious activity, excellent work is being done by responding officers and West detectives have been stellar. Let’s continue with being observant and reporting suspicious behavior. Do not let your guard down.

    On Thursday, August 4, 2011 at approximately 7:27 a.m. officers responded to a report by a citizen of a suspicious white male walking up to two separate residences and trying the door knobs on West Highland Drive. The suspicious male was described as wearing a black hat, black clothing and carrying a red backpack.

    Responding officer stopped a person matching that description on the 1200 block of Queen Anne Ave N between Comstock Street and Highland Drive. The officer advised the suspect that he was contacted because he matched a description given of a possible burglar. While waiting for arrival of a backup officer, the suspect was instructed to sit. The officer asked the suspect why he was walking around residences. Suspect stated that he was thirsty and was just looking for water. The officer asked the suspect why he did not ask a local business for a  glass of water or use the water fountain up the street at the intersection of Queen Anne Ave N and Galer. The suspect was unable to provide an answer. Further investigation by the officer revealed that the suspect was in possession of a large amount of U. S. paper currency and coins. The backup officer arrived and continued with the investigation. Checking the status of the identification of the suspect revealed that the suspect had previously been arrested for burglary. Other contents of the backpack included smaller electronics. The suspect was taken into custody and brought to the West Precinct where detectives continued the investigation, and discovered that the electronics were taken from a reported car prowl nearby. West Precinct detectives are requesting theft charges on the case.

    If you suspect that your property was among the items found through this arrest, contact Officer Tello at (206) 684-4730.

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