There have been reports from residents in the Cottage Lake and Hollywood Hill communities of Woodinville of suspicious-looking people trolling the area in cars, trucks and vans, appearing as if they are trying to determine who is home and which houses are empty. Although there have not been a rash of break-ins during March (*see the chart at the end of this story), there was an increase in home burglaries in January and February in some portions of Woodinville, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The fear among residents is that these largely unmarked vehicles are driven by people determining which houses to rob. That assumption may not be far from the truth, and neighbors are wise to keep an eye on suspicious acting drivers, according to Sgt. John Urquhart, spokesman for the King County Sheriff’s Office.
“If people see a car or strangers on their street that look suspicious, they probably are. People know their neighborhoods better than we do,” he said. “Don’t hesitate, call 911.”
An observant neighbor did just that last December when she saw men lurking around a neighbor’s house on Northeast 182nd Place in Woodinville. The men drove a white van up to the house and started walking around it, pretending to be there to clean the gutters, according to the neighbor. Valera Coyne and her family were away for the day when Coyne received a call on her mobile phone from her neighbor.
“She asked me if there were cleaners that were supposed to be in my house,” Coyne said. “When I said no, she hung up and called the police.”
King County Sheriff’s deputies arrived in time to catch the men and retrieve the goods from Coyne’s house, including TVs, iPods, laptops and Christmas presents that were still under the family’s tree. The house’s sliding glass door had been jimmied opened, Coyne said.
In another incident on 167th Avenue Northeast in Hollywood Hill (recounted to Woodinville Patch via emails from Hollywood Hill residents), thieves gained entry by smashing a side window, grabbing valuables and leaving before Sheriff’s deputies had a chance to arrive.
In both cases, thieves forced their way into the houses, although forced entry is not always the case. A significant number of burglaries occur when houses are left unlocked, or garage doors are left open, according to Sgt. Urquhart.
The best things residents can do to deter burglaries is to watch out for each other and to not hesitate to call 911 when suspicious activity occurs.
*An explanation of the chart below; the King County Sheriff’s Office does not have crime report information for specific neighborhoods. In the Sheriff’s reporting system there are three patrolling districts that include portions of Hollywood Hill and Cottage Lake as well as portions of other neighborhoods. Here is the breakdown of those patrol districts:
- B6 District: Snohomish County on the north; 170th Avenue Northeast jogging over to the Woodinville-Redmond Road on the west; Northeast 155th Street on the south; and Avondale up to Paradise Lake Road on the east.
- B7 District: Northeast 155th on the north; Woodinville-Redmond Road on the east; Northeast 116th on the south; and the Avondale on the east.
- B8 District: Snohomish County on the north; Paradise Lake Road down along the Avondale on the west; Novelty Hill Road on the south; West Snoqualmie Valley Road on the east.