November 16, 2009 in City

Getting There: Fine line between a warm and stolen car

Police urge owners not to go back inside while warming autos
By The Spokesman-Review

With auto thefts on the rise this fall, Spokane Police Officer Ryan Snider has a bit of advice: Don’t start your car and go back in the house while it warms up.

Ask Christy Malone, a North Side resident.

Earlier this year, she said, her Pontiac was stolen from the street in front of her home after she left it running and went inside.

Not only was that a bad idea, Snider said, but it was also illegal.

In Washington, you can get a $124 ticket for leaving a running car unattended on the street.

Malone must not have learned. During patrol last week, Snider caught her letting another vehicle warm up while she went inside.

“I was sitting right there at the table,” she told Snider. The officer let her off with a warning.

As a member of the police traffic enforcement unit, Snider has been patrolling neighborhoods looking for people who are letting their vehicles run unattended. He has not been writing tickets, just warning those he catches.

On an hour-long trip across the North Side last week, Snider talked to at least four residents who had left running vehicles unattended.

At the same time, police received reports of five stolen vehicles.

“Crime is about opportunity,” he said. “People don’t realize it, but they are totally setting themselves up.”

While the offense is relatively minor, the risks and costs associated with stolen vehicles are serious.

Car thieves often will drive erratically, and when officers try to stop them, they might try to flee, which could lead to an accident, Snider said.

A woman died in June when she crashed a stolen car into a tree along Indiana Avenue east of Ruby Street after a police pursuit.

In addition, thefts are costly to owners and their insurance companies, and the crime consumes a lot of police time for mandatory reporting and subsequent recovery.

“People don’t realize how much of a burden it is on resources,” he said.

While it’s illegal to leave a vehicle running unattended on the street, it is not illegal to do it on private property. But Snider said it’s still not a good practice.

He recommended that vehicle owners consider installing car alarms to deter thieves.

Theft has become a major problem this fall in Spokane, where 60 vehicles were stolen in October, police said. At the same time, an epidemic of car and garage prowlings continues.

Malone said her block of North Post Street has been hit particularly hard with thefts.

Snider said residents should improve security with hardened locks and latches and motion-detector yard lights.

“I’d beef it up around the home,” he said.

Patrol gets results

A nighttime seat belt patrol in Spokane County from Oct. 23 to Nov. 8 resulted in citations and arrests.

There were 57 seat belt violations, 129 speeding tickets, 13 arrests for drunken driving, one felony arrest, seven other criminal arrests, three negligent driving tickets and six aggressive driving citations.

Among the stops, officers had 38 uninsured motorists and 23 with suspended or revoked licenses.

Slow going

•The Sullivan Road bridge over the Spokane River will be reduced to one lane northbound Tuesday and Wednesday for maintenance work.

•In Spokane County, Forker Road from Bigelow Gulch to Progress roads will have crews working on maintenance this week.

Leaf cleanup continues

Cleaning up leaves in tree-lined Browne’s Addition has always been a challenge because most of the streets are fairly narrow.

Again this year, the city is asking residents to move their cars during scheduled leaf collections, which will be Tuesday for north-south streets and Wednesday for east-west avenues.

Residents are required to move to the opposite streets during those days or risk being towed.

Leaf pickup is also planned this week for Corbin Park, Indian Canyon, Westview, Shadle Park, Lincoln Heights, Cannon Hill, Franklin Park and the south Freya area.

For more information, go to

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