CRIME TRACKER: Stolen cars, prowls spike in Ellensburg

CRIME TRACKER: Stolen cars, prowls spike in Ellensburg
ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- Ellensburg police are busy following a surge in stolen cars and car prowls they say picked up towards the beginning of last month.

Investigators have made two arrests; the most recent for a man accused of stealing a Kittitas County rig and totaling it.

Neighbors near the Kittitas County public works facility got a rude wakeup call Wednesday.

Several fences were destroyed after police say the man drove the county rig, rammed it through the facility's gate, and later hit another truck.

Becky Smith's son lives at the property that was damaged. She and her husband live right next door.

"We had one car broke into once, but that was about 12 years ago. So it's a very quiet, a very quiet neighborhood," said Smith.

Ellensburg police say the Kittitas County truck is far from being the only recent target of car thieves.

Since September 1st, investigators say there has been a spike in the number of cars being stolen right here in Ellensburg; 19 stolen in that time.

That's more than triple for the same time last year. Investigators say this year's number also includes several reports from CWU.

KIMA also pulled the numbers of car prowls, which are up by 11 from last year. However, these numbers do not include incidents at CWU.

Investigators say they average 3 to 4 stolen cars a month. Like a lot of other places, older Hondas are the primary target.

KIMA asked, "Should people in Ellensburg be worried about the recent crime trends, as far as cars?"

"Well, I think you should always be alert," said Ellensburg Police Captain Dan Hansberry. "You should always be aware of what's going on. This recent spike in stolen crimes is not normal for us."

Police booked a man this week for stealing cars and believe he is linked to other cases.

Neighbors hope the arrest will bring an end to the recent crime spree.

"It was a shame because it was a very nice fence," Smith said. "But it will be replaced and life will go on."

Police identified the man accused of stealing the county rig as 22-year old Robert Smith.

They say he was drunk and faces charges of DUI, vehicle theft and burglary.

Damage from that accident is estimated at $100,000.