And city is ranked 57th safest in U.S.
An aggressive campaign against car thieves by Bellevue Police is paying off, with auto theft dropping by 35 percent in the first half of 2006. There were 199 car thefts in the city over the first six months of this year, compared to 308 in that same period in 2005.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police this month recognized the city's efforts by awarding Bellevue Police its 2006 Vehicle Theft Award of Merit. Police Chief Jim Montgomery will present the award to members of the Police Department at tonight's City Council meeting.
Meanwhile, Bellevue has been ranked the 57th safest city in America, according to the 2006 edition of City Crime Rankings due to be released Wednesday.
While most crime has been dropping in Bellevue, auto theft had been rising since 2002, from 545 that year to a high of 607 in 2004. As a result, all divisions in the Police Department, from detectives to bike officers to crime lab technicians, began focusing on car thieves.
At National Night Out and other occasions, officers educated the public about how to protect their cars from theft. Detectives also pursue leads and conduct surveillance beyond Bellevue's boundaries to apprehend the worst offenders in the city and region. One suspect, arrested in Pierce County, complained that he had stopped coming to Bellevue, but was getting arrested anyway.
"Bellevue is becoming known as a place not to steal cars," said Chief Jim Montgomery. "The Special Enforcement Team began operations late in the summer of 2005, and we began to implement many of the community-based actions the last half of that year. I suspect that accounts for the beginning of the downward trend in later 2005, with the real drop kicking into gear the first half of this year."
The drop in auto thefts in Bellevue, at a time when car thefts are a growing problem regionally, can be attributed to a combined effort across several disciplines.
Enforcement: The Special Enforcement Team (mostly plain-clothes detectives who target offenders tied to recurring crimes) and property and auto crimes detectives have tracked down prolific vehicle crimes offenders. Additionally, patrol officers process the scene of vehicle crimes, including fingerprinting, and bike officers patrol car theft hot spots.
Technology: Police employ "bait cars," portable agent alarms, covert cameras and other technological tools to watch, even when no one is around. Crime lab analysis and processing links offenders to multiple crimes, resulting in higher bail and longer sentences. Crime analysis generates bulletins and area watch lists that keep officers informed of the most active offenders and their preferred methods.
Education: During the 2005 Night Out event, officers instructed more than 2,000 people how to protect against car theft. Community station officers continue this activity year-round by giving informational meetings, providing flyers and tips and contacting businesses to gain cooperation with good lighting, signage and landscaping in their areas. At the Community Academy, offered twice a year, people who live or work in Bellevue can take a series of classes taught by Department experts on a variety of subjects.
Prosecution: Bellevue Police have worked closely with the King County Prosecutor's Office to ensure that suspects face high bail while awaiting trial and receive longer sentences. The Department cited the assistance of three prosecutors in particular: Shaya Calvo, Alexandra Voorhees and Doug Young.
Bellevue's success in all forms of crime prevention is reflected in its ranking as the 57th safest city in the United States, according to City Crime Rankings, an annual reference book of crime statistics published by Morgan Quitno Press. Bellevue was the only city in Washington included among the top 100 safe cities in the country.
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