Police warn residents to guard against burglaries, auto prowls

By Bob Albrecht, Columbian Staff Reporter

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A woman returned from a workout last week to find one of her vehicle’s windows smashed; a purse described as "expensive," a watch and two cell phones were missing.

The best protection against auto prowls, according to Kim Kapp of the Vancouver Police Department, “is not to leave valuables in your vehicle. We just cannot get the information out enough.”

Auto prowls and residential burglaries tend to peak during summer, an alarming trend given the crimes locally were also up this spring when the weather remained wet and cool.

On the year, burglaries, both residential and commercial, are up 10 percent over 2010, Kapp said Friday. In April, they were up 23 percent over the same month last year. Auto prowls are on the rise too.

In west Vancouver, the primary problem has been vehicle prowls, while burglaries are down. In the eastern half of the city, the equation flips — burglaries are up, auto prowls down.

“In warm weather, it generally goes up,” Kapp said of auto prowls and burglaries. “We’re anticipating it will (this year).”

Volunteers with the city’s Neighbors on Watch program recently distributed to businesses and residents in District 1 — basically, everything west of Interstate 5 — 1,500 fliers with information on protecting against auto prowls. The campaign has been “extremely successful,” Kapp said.

The concern as weather warms is residents leaving doors and windows open to allow in cool air, while simultaneously allowing easy access for would-be burglars. Thieves typically target vehicles parked at trail heads, sports complexes, athletic clubs, shopping malls, churches and restaurants.

The woman victimized at the gym had left her purse on the floor board and a cell phone visible on the dash, Kapp said. Neither the woman nor the athletic club were identified.

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