An area just south of Spokane city limits is a burglary hot-spot this fall, but Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies don’t know exactly why.
They just know that, lately, it is.
Between Hatch Road and Browne Mountain, and south to 65th Avenue, the number of vehicle break-ins and residential burglaries has jumped in the past month.
“They’re killing us up there,” said Sheriff’s spokesman Dave Reagan.
Between June and mid-September of this year, Sheriff’s deputies received 20 reports of residential burglaries and car break-ins. In the month and a half since then, they’ve had 31 complaints.
Officials say they’re at a loss to explain the sudden surge.
“We don’t know exactly what’s causing all this,” said Sheriff’s Detective Larry Olson.
The South Hill has always been somewhat of a target, said Lt. Danny O’Dell, head of property crimes, because of the area’s reputation as a wealthy section of Spokane.
Whatever the source, it’s now compounded by Daylight Savings Time, which gives burglars the benefit of darkness.
“Now there’s maybe 10 hours to work with,” said Reagan. “That ups the window of opportunity.”
The boost in crime was first obvious on Sept. 16, said Olson. Within 24 hours, four vehicle breakins and two residential burglaries occurred in the area.
Since then, burglaries have become almost a daily occurrence. Officials say they’re starting to see some patterns.
First, the 24-hour period between Monday night and Tuesday night is the time-block of choice. In addition to the Sept. 16 spree, five vehicles were broken into on Tuesday, Oct. 14.
Also, deputies say they’re noticing favorite areas.
“We can definitely see some clusters,” said Olson.
One of the hardest-hit areas is along East Tara between the 2900 and 3500 blocks, where deputies have seen six car break-ins and residential burglaries since mid-September.
Along South Madelia Street between the 6300 and 5600 blocks, reports of five break-ins were recorded in the same time frame.
A third area, along the 5000 block of South Morrill Lane, has produced four break-ins.
Because of the clustering, “we’re probably looking at at least three individuals,” said Olson. “But it’s hard for us to say if it’s an organized group or a very active individual.”
Deputies said it’s likely the suspects live in the area.
“The further thieves get from their comfort zone, the more likely they are to get caught,” said Olson. “They like to stick to the territory they know.”
“These are looking like ‘crash and dash’ types,” he added. “The thieves are breaking windshields and grabbing whatever is visible. They’re not spending a lot of time here.”
Deputies say there are simple ways for homeowners to make their property less burglar-friendly:
Don’t leave garage door openers on the car visor. This is an invitation to break into the car to gain access to the garage.
Move things left in the car out of visibility. Many residents are reporting their cell phones, CDs and car stereos missing.
Shut garage doors and lock them at night. Residents are also reporting missing power tools, expensive bicycles, snow blowers and golf clubs.
“You’d be amazed how many people leave their doors open at night,” said O’Dell. “It’s like asking a burglar to come in.”
Leave the bedroom window open just a crack at night to listen for noises.
Get to know your neighbors’ cars and notice unusual ones.
Mark your property with your license plate number. This information is all authorities need to trace equipment back to its owners.
If you see or hear something suspicious, call Crime Check at 456-2233. When you call, get a report number so authorities can refer to this if future incidents occur.
“Don’t think because you just heard something that it’s not important,” said Reagan. “We’re pretty good at solving stuff, but citizens need to be responsible for preventative measures.”