‘Don’t feel safe’: SPD finds $100,000 of stolen property, neighbors say crime still won’t improve

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane Police Department broke up a property crime ring and discovered over $100,000 in stolen property. Neighbors still aren’t convinced the crime will stop.

Police say they were able to make the arrest because a concerned resident called in a tip about someone’s catalytic converter being stolen. That initial call lead police on a search for more stolen property. It was citizens engagement that helped them piece together the thefts. Still, those who live by one of the busted homes are worried about their neighborhood.

“I don’t feel all that safe,” said Darlene Haats. She’s lived on East Garland since 1963.

Haats always keeps a close eye on her community because of the issues she sees in the neighborhood.

“My back opens up to the alley, and you see some strange people going down the alley,” she said.

Neighbors capture that strange behavior on their cameras at all hours of the night in the alleys.

“I can see it on my camera. They’re loaded full of stuff,” said Stella Murphy, who also lives near one of the homes police raided. “They go to the other end of the block. They’re there for five or 10 minutes, and they come back — their backpacks are empty. They’re gone for an hour and then they’re back with full backpacks again.”

Being observant neighbors is what helped police capture seven criminals responsible for over $100,000 in property theft. Police found all kinds of items in homes, vehicles and storage units. Police say some of the recovered property was: catalytic converters, tools, ID cards, credit and debit cards), coin-operated toy machines, firefighter gear, a number of guns, cash, money orders, gift cards, fentanyl “Mexi” pills and a pickup truck.

These neighbors are thankful police are making arrests but aren’t convinced the crime will change.

“I think it’s terrible that the police arrest these people and then the judges let them go,” Haats said.

“These people don’t care. They don’t care,” Murphy said. “They just do whatever because they know even if they go to jail and get in trouble, they’re going to get out in the morning anyway.”

Police say it’s rare to bust a crime ring this big, but stolen property is everywhere.

“Commercial theft has gotten extremely busy ever since the laws have changed, and the bad guys have become more aggressive,” said Brian Eckersley. He’s a Sergeant with the SPEAR team which specializes in stolen property crime.

He says police will keep pursuing crimes and making arrests like this, but he can’t guarantee those people will stay behind bars.

“These crimes have fingers,” he said. “They all go in different directions and so this is an example of that.”

Haats says she just wants to see change and to feel safe again in her home by “getting these guys off the streets and out of our neighborhood.”

They don’t want to keep falling prey to crime they feel isn’t getting any better.

“I’ve been ripped off. I’ve had brand new tires stolen off my truck,” Murphy concluded. “I don’t make a lot of money now, and I’m retired, and it’s ridiculous.”

At the time this article was published, only three of the original seven arrests are still booked in jail.

RELATED: Spokane Police bust theft ring, recover more than $100K in stolen property