Thieves have zeroed in on downtown Spokane as their preferred place to burglarize cars, so now police are using undercover officers to catch car prowlers.
Crime analysts report 52 break-ins during the past month in an area east of Monroe, west of Bernard, north of 2nd Avenue and south of Riverside.
In the time it takes for a traffic signal to turn green a car prowler can smash your window and take whatever you've left inside, so the best way to catch a speedy thief may be to set up a trap.
It's pretty easy to spot valuables left inside parked cars in downtown Spokane, but what if that purse or briefcase was just bait being carefully watched by police? Newly assigned officers in the downtown area hope to keep car prowlers guessing.
"We're putting some undercover cars out to see if we can catch those people in the act," Spokane Police Sgt. Dan Waters said.
Police are also relying on crime analyst to better direct the resources they have. Dozens of reported break-ins create patterns that direct where and when officers should patrol for prowlers.
"We are arming them with as much as information as possible. Information on suspects, how the crime is occurring, where the crime is occurring in order for them to have their tools at disposal to fight crime," crime analyst Tom Michaud said.
In this latest trend, prowlers seem to be hitting a lot of cars between 9 a.m. and noon, using east-west alleys to make a quick getaway.
"They get what they need and then they disappear into an alley and dump what they don't want into the garbage can, and now they have your credit cards and ID or whatever they get out of your car that's sitting in plain sight," Waters explained.
Not to mention the expense of having your car window replaced. Glass technicians with Safelite Auto Glass fixed seven windows Wednesday; two more people showed up with broken windows Thursday, all with the same story.
"Most customers they've left a gym bag, a purse, something left in the car that they see and break into," Scott Slusser with Safelite said.
Most car windows cost less than your insurance deductible so you're dealing with a several hundred dollar expenditure you had not budgeted for, so don't leave anything in your car, even a gym bag, because a thief will break out your window only to find he's only stolen your sweats.