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North Bend sees surge in automobile thefts

NORTH BEND - A Valley resident, who asked not to be named, never entertained the possibility of having a vehicle stolen from in front of her North Bend apartment until now.

A truck belonging to her grandson was stolen from a well-lit area in front of the building on July 17. Gone was not only the truck, but also the tools inside it, which he uses at his job.

Although the truck may never be seen again, the woman wants to use the incident as a reminder to Valley residents that it could happen to them.

According to the 2002 National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) report, thieves often target a wide range of passenger vehicles, usually seeking valuable parts from older models for sale on the black market. Individual car parts are in high demand among street racers, according to the report.

Nationally the 1989 Toyota Camry is the top stolen vehicles, according to the report, with the 1994 Honda Accord second and the 2000 Honda Civic third. In Washington the Honda Civic was the most popular car among thieves, with the Honda Accord in second and the Toyota Camry in third.

The report also states that nationwide, white is the most popular color for a stolen car, with red in second and blue in third.

In 2002, the FBI stated that about 1.2-million vehicle thefts were reported. The nation's vehicle theft rate per 100,000 was up slightly (.4 percent), marking the third consecutive year of increases in the auto theft rate following a 10-year decline. The estimated total value of stolen motor vehicles in 2002, according to the report, was $8.2 billion.

North Bend Police Chief Sgt. Joe Hodgson, of the King County Sheriff's Office North Bend Substation, said auto theft seems to happen in spurts and that right now the city is experiencing an increase.

So far in the month of July there have been four incidents of auto theft, with similar totals in January and April. With about 20-25 auto thefts a year, Hodgson said, the average is around two per month.

Several auto thefts occur at local apartment complexes, Hodgson said. Not only are there lots of cars at an apartment complex, he said, but due to the numerous people living there, it's unlikely notice will be taken of people in the parking lot.

The NICB recommends that motorists always remove the keys from the ignition and vehicle, lock the doors, close the windows, hide valuable items, park in well-lit areas and use a combination of anti-theft devices. Those with cars more prone to being stolen are advised by the NICB to add a steering wheel lock, an alarm, a starter or fuel disabler and a tracking device to their vehicle.

"Light is a great deterrent," added Hodgson.

He said that deputies have seen cars stolen from in front of stores or residences when the driver has left the car running while going into the house or business to grab something. No matter how long you're going to be inside, don't leave the keys in your car or leave the vehicle running, he said.

To combat the problem, North Bend deputies will be running more license plates through the crime database, he said, and stepping up patrols around area apartment complexes.

Travis Peterson can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at travis.peterson@valleyrecord.com.

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