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GPS leads detectives to theft suspect

Police predict decline in burglaries after arrest

Spokane Police Department detectives used a GPS tracker to solve at least one recent business burglary, and they continue to investigate whether the suspect may have been involved in similar heists.

Over the past several weeks, officers have received reports of more than 40 burglaries targeting tattoo shops, hair and nail salons, and other businesses, police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said.

The businesses had smashed windows, pried locks and other signs of “blunt force” entry. Owners had reported stolen computers, tattoo equipment and salon products, DeRuwe said.

“The first break in the burglary investigation is credited to several witnesses” at the Sunny Buns Tanning Salon and Spa, located at 2821 E. 27th Ave., DeRuwe wrote in a news release.

When that burglary occurred on March 14, witnesses reported seeing and hearing a Ford Bronco with a loud muffler. Patrol officers and members of the department’s Patrol Anti-Crime Team made several stops on a Bronco that matched witness reports and linked it to Robert Frates.

“Meanwhile, detectives learned from a ‘confidential informant’ that Frates would leave his home during the evening hours and return with stolen goods,” DeRuwe wrote.

Detectives then placed a GPS tracking device on both Frates’ Bronco and a Chevy Lumina. One of the vehicles was tracked to several locations in Airway Heights; investigators later learned that those locations had been burglarized.

The detectives spent Friday evening following Frates and arrested him on a single burglary charge. The detectives also found methamphetamine in his possession, which led to an additional drug charge, DeRuwe said.

“Frates will likely face additional burglary charges as detectives compile more information regarding the recent burglary spree,” she wrote. “Frates is a repeat offender and the Spokane community will likely see a significant decrease in commercial burglaries now that Frates is in jail.”

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