The Bellevue Police Department has arrested more than 10 people allegedly part of an organized car prowl ring operating throughout the region, including a fatal incident in Sammamish earlier this year.
To date, the department has arrested 13 people and has up to 40 suspects linked to 150 prowls in Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Sammamish, Seattle and Kitsap County, said Officer Seth Tyler, Bellevue police public information officer Thursday. The total loss connected to these car prowls is around $200,000.
“As the investigation continues, it’s likely we’ll identify additional jurisdictions,” Tyler said.
Tyler also said it is likely the department will make more arrests in the coming weeks.
Bellevue police, leading the investigation, started working on the case a few months ago when it became apparent car prowlers were targeting Bellevue parks, Tyler said.
“They would work in teams of two or three,” Tyler said.
The suspects would allegedly watch for people parking in parks or gym parking lots who would hide their belongings, like a purse or wallet, in the trunk or under the seat. After the victims would walk away from their vehicle, the suspects would allegedly break the car windows to retrieve the belongings.
The suspects would then immediately take credit cards and purchase gift cards to redeem them for cash.
In addition to the car prowls, suspects are facing identity theft and money laundering charges.
Tyler said these types of car prowls were happening “almost on a daily basis.”
To date, the department has recovered four fire arms, which are being investigated as being linked to recent shootings.
“Police have also seized three vehicles that were used in the commission of the felony crimes or were obtained through money laundering,” according to a police press release.
Unfortunately, suspects dumped most of the items taken from the vehicles after they retrieved credit cards, Tyler said.
Special undercover officers have been working the case along with detectives from the Issaquah, Sammamish, Redmond and Kirkland police departments.
In honor of Moises Radcliffe, the son of a Seattle officer and the man who died in January in the car prowl incident in Beaver Lake Park in Sammamish, officers called this investigation “Operation Radcliffe.”
“Investigators have also linked many of these suspects to the individual charged in the death of Moises Radcliffe,” according to the press release.
Car prowls in Bellevue parks are dropping “significantly,” according to the department, due to the “combined efforts of higher visibility in the parks by uniformed officers and public education, combined with the intelligence and arrests by detectives working the operation.”
Police are encouraging residents to prevent these crimes by never leaving valuables in their vehicles and to lock their cars.