July 12, 2013 in City

Bee truck theft points to larger problem

Vehicle thefts are up 28 percent over last year, police say
By The Spokesman-Review
Kathy Plonka photoBuy this photo

Will Olson plays with his dogs in his backyard in Spokane on Wednesday. Olson, a local beekeeper, was the victim of a recent truck theft. His vehicle was full of tools and products he needs for his trade, including six of his homemade hives.
(Full-size photo)

A Spokane beekeeper is still feeling the sting of a recent theft that left him short a tool-filled truck, a beekeeper’s suit and dozens of honeycombs.

William Olson, 51, woke up Monday morning to find his truck gone, apparently stolen in the night from his north Spokane home. Olson said the truck is his primary source of transportation. He estimates that between the truck and the tools, he lost about $3,000 worth of equipment.

Olson, who had a number of honey shipments planned for this summer, is now scrambling to figure out how he’s going to get honey to his clients.

“This time of year is very busy for us bee guys,” Olson said at his home over the quiet buzzing of one of his hives.

It’s a seemingly never-ending story: Olson joins about 1,200 people whose vehicles have been stolen this year, according to the Spokane Police Department. Vehicle thefts have increased by about 28 percent from last year, according to police data.

There’s some good news for people like Olson, though: About 75 percent of stolen vehicles are recovered, police spokeswoman Monique Cotton said. Using “hot-spot patrolling,” crime analysts can pinpoint where most property crimes are occurring and step up patrols in those areas.

Capt. Dan Torok, who oversees investigation of hot spots, said many vehicle thieves are repeat offenders who have some kind of drug addiction and represent a continued threat to the community.

“Oftentimes these cars are used for nothing more than Point A to Point B to get more drugs,” Torok said.

Focusing on repeat offenders in high-crime areas is working, Torok said. In the southeast patrol district, for example, vehicle thefts are down 19 percent from this time last year, Cotton said.

Overall crime in the city is up, Cotton adds, but by 5 percent compared with an increase of about 20 percent this time last year. It’s progress, she said, but reducing numbers will take time and additional officers.

In the meantime, Olson knows his business won’t be profitable this year. Losing the truck made too much of a dent.

He has another truck, but it’s not in good shape. Olson has a larger apiary in Springdale, Wash., and he commutes between the two operations.

Six of Olson’s homemade hives were in the back of the stolen truck. There are still a few at his Spokane home, painted in bright colors of seafoam green, salmon pink and turquoise.

Each box ends up holding about 70 pounds of honey, Olson said, and he builds and paints each one himself.

Officers predicted Olson’s vehicle would be returned by the end of the week. It stands out, Olson said – the red 1991 Ford Ranger is full of tools, and the logo for his company, Moose Meadow Apiary, is painted on the side.

“There’s a cost to this, and I’m the face of it,” he said.

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