Friday, February 23, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Eastside police challenged by ID fraud, car thefts, drugs

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

The Eastside has been spared the increases in violent crime that have plagued many other cities recently, but it has faced more cases of identity fraud and car theft, along with drug problems, a group of local police chiefs agreed Thursday.

The commanders from five Eastside departments laid out their concerns at a meeting with Sen. Patty Murray at Bellevue City Hall. Murray said she'd invited the chiefs to the session to learn about problems facing their communities.

The result was a conversational gathering, with first-person accounts of problems, big and small.

Redmond Cmdr. Terry Morgan said many crimes are committed by methamphetamine users who go from city to city.

"They'll come from Everett, do crimes in Redmond, and drop the car off in Kent," he said. "Virtually everyone police arrest is a meth addict. It's an epidemic."

Kirkland Chief Stan Aston recalled a group of what were called the "happy-hour bandits" who robbed rental cars in restaurant parking lots between 5 and 7 p.m., breaking out windows and taking laptops and other valuables.

"All the stuff was going to Portland," said Aston, adding that many of the crimes on the Eastside are sophisticated and involve multiple jurisdictions.

Bellevue Chief Jim Montgomery said his condo building was beset by mail thefts, a not-uncommon problem. The condo board eventually agreed to spend a few thousand dollars to install locking mailboxes and educate residents about taking outgoing mail to a post office rather than leaving it in the condo mailboxes.

"Our mail thefts dropped" dramatically, Montgomery said.

Newcastle Chief Melinda Irvine said the federal government's border-tightening measures have led to changes in drug traffickers' strategies. She said large-scale local marijuana-growing operations are increasing.

Renton Chief Kevin Milosevich said drug-growing operations involving eight, 10 and 12 residences are becoming increasingly common.

The commanders urged Murray to fight to continue federal funding for local anti-crime efforts, including preservation of Byrne Grants administered by the Department of Justice.

Such grants have provided about $5 million a year for Washington state police departments for several years, funding such operations as Eastside and Green River Valley anti-narcotics task forces and salaries for intelligence analysis, the chiefs said.

Murray said the main messages she took from the session were an awareness of the complexities facing local law-enforcement agencies and how it's "absolutely critical" that federal crime-fighting funding not be cut.

Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or

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