Opinion | Let’s roll up the welcome mat for criminals

Maybe the neighbor was being nosy. But if he hadn’t called police that early June morning, there’d be one more gang of prowlers stalking the Valley’s streets.

It was 5:15 a.m. on Snoqualmie Ridge’s Cortland Avenue, too early for a bunch of strangers to be hanging out in an open garage. So a neighbor called the cops to describe the situation. They duly respond, a car chase ensues, one man is zapped with a Tazer, all are arrested and police end up recovering a Ford Explorer full of stolen goods.

With variations, and different endings, this situation repeats itself pretty often in the Snoqualmie Valley. Car prowls and break-ins are becoming too common in local neighborhoods, trailheads and parks—in the last few weeks we’ve had multiple prowls and smash-and-grabs at places like Centennial Fields and Snoqualmie Point Park. When police make an arrest, they’re typically led back to storage units and stashes in Pierce County or South King County.

The word is out that the Snoqualmie Valley is easy pickings for thieves. Prowlers have found that locals are both reasonably affluent and also obliging when it comes to car security. Oftentimes, thieves don’t even have to take the trouble to smash a window. They’ll go down a row of parked cars and wait until they find one that’s unlocked. Once inside, they’ll grab whatever looks valuable—a handbag, a cell phone, a handheld GPS—and if they find your garage door opener, they might decide to come into your home.

That serious step up, from prowler to home invader, has Snoqualmie Police Captain Steve McCulley worried. He told me that such home invasions are dangerous for everybody involved. Potentially dangerous and costly, too, are the car chases and electric tazings that police sometimes have to do to catch the bad guys.

McCulley would rather see locals work to ditch the Valley’s reputation as an easy target, and I wholeheartedly agree. I’m a victim of prowlers myself—if you ever see a prowler in cardigan and khaki pants, call me, he’s got my clothes—and have learned the hard way about the need to lock up to protect your stuff.

This Valley is still a safe place, no question about that, and we’re lucky it retains its small-town character. But because it’s safe, many people have let their guards down. It’s time to raise it again, and we do that by locking car doors, keeping valuables out of plain sight, and alerting the law when we see something that doesn’t seem right.

When you call, you’re not bothering anyone, just the opposite, in fact. Police know that it’s their job to chase prowlers. Some residents may feel like it’s not worth their time to call the cops for what seems like a petty crime. But I’d argue that by doing your part to help the handful of officers on duty at any time, you’re helping the Valley become a less popular target for thieves. I think we’d all like to see that.

If what you saw turned out to be innocuous, no one comes off the worse. But if you did stop a crime, or prevent one, think about what that means for the potential victim—they’ll never know a thing. And that’s just fine by me.

You can contact your local police officers by calling:

• Snoqualmie Police Department, (425) 888-3333.

• King County Sheriff’s Office (North Bend), (425) 888-4438.

• Carnation Police Department, (425) 333-4190.

• Or, simply call 911.

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