Rantz: Man allegedly car prowls for an hour in broad daylight, as police couldn’t respond

Jan 18, 2022, 6:00 PM | Updated: Jan 19, 2022, 7:28 am
car prowl...
A man appears to be breaking into cars into the Tacoma Mall parking lot. (Courtesy of Mike Poth)
(Courtesy of Mike Poth)

A man was caught on video surveillance as he appears to car prowl in Tacoma for almost an hour. Police officers were nowhere to be seen, but even if they were, thanks to new laws passed by Democrats, the man couldn’t be detained.

In broad daylight, the unidentified man is seen on surveillance video driving through the parking lot of the Tacoma Mall. He leaves his own vehicle multiple times to peer through the windows of cars he’s targeting. At one point, he is even captured using a prying tool that breaks a driver’s side window before reaching in and snatching an item.

It took four 911 calls over that time period for an overworked and understaffed Tacoma Police Department to finally respond. By the time they arrived, the alleged prowler was gone.

Caught on video

Mike Poth is a private investigator and was in Tacoma on an assignment on Jan. 12. It was then that he and his associate saw a man driving suspiciously through the lots at the Tacoma Mall.

“My associate and I were able to follow the male throughout the mall parking lot as he was breaking into cars. Some of these break-ins occurred within 15-20 feet of unsuspecting mall patrons,” Poth, vice president of Poth Investigations, told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

Poth shared over eight minutes of footage showing various instances in which the man was scouring the parking lot. From 1:46 p.m. through 2:25 p.m., Poth says he watched as the man broke into cars. In his video, he lists the times that he says the events took place.

At 1:51 p.m., the man reaches into the back passenger side window, pulls out various bags, and tosses them in his car before pulling away.

At 2:15 p.m., the man appears to struggle to get into a van before retreating back to his car. Moments later, at 2:17 p.m., he slyly tried to gain entry again with a tool but fails. At 2:22 p.m., he targets another car, breaking the window with a wedge tool, and quickly snagging what looks like a backpack.

Finally, at 2:25 p.m., he uses the same tool to break the glass of an SUV before pulling out a backpack and driving off.

But where were the police?

Rantz: New equity policy bars Seattle Police from some traffic stops, opens door to more car theft

Tacoma PD didn’t show

As the alleged car prowls were underway, Poth says he called 911 four separate times. But when police arrived 40 minutes later, it was too late.

“When I talked to the officer, we informed him that we had video of [the suspect] doing these activities,” Poth explained. “At that point, the officer informed me because of the new state laws that even if they saw him break a window of a vehicle and take items out of that, they couldn’t get ‘hands on’ because they did not have a victim present to arrest him.”

Under new guidelines set by state Democrats, officers must now meet the high standard of probable cause to detain the suspect.

Previously, reasonable suspicion was all that was needed. During that time, officers would work to establish probable cause. But Democrats decided to “reimagine policing.” They ended up making it easier for the crimes to be committed.

“Unless the officer can contact a vehicle owner who states they want to be a victim, it would be difficult for the officer to establish probable cause that a crime had been committed,” Tacoma Police spokesperson Wendy Haddow tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

In other words, the officer must establish the car didn’t belong to the suspect before detaining him. Without the owner present, the suspect could merely say he’s the owner — or not answer the question about ownership at all — and the officer is powerless.

Could things have been different if officers arrived sooner? Yes. It could have scared the man off. But the police department is dealing with staffing issues.

Staffing issues plague the Tacoma PD

While the alleged car prowl took place, there were 28 officers working patrol. That’s well within what’s considered acceptable in Tacoma. But officers are overworked due to a staffing and resource shortage.

Generally speaking, “people crimes” take priority over property crimes.

“It’s not uncommon for our guys to log into service and have 30, 40, even 60 calls pending,” Local 6 President Henry Betts told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

Last year, the department lost 50 officers to separation.

This leaves the Tacoma Police Department with only 141 officers assigned to patrol (not including traffic officers or homeless outreach teams), with a total of 315 commissioned officers. They are budgeted for 365.

Rantz: Police staffing crisis in Tacoma is nearly as bad as in Seattle, morale ‘decimated’

So now what?

Poth says the officers seemed “just as discouraged as I was” since they were not able to help. And he doesn’t blame them for the slow response.

“I have no ill will towards the police,” Poth explained. “I mean, they’re doing the best they can. And it is a frustrating situation, which is exactly why I sent you this video because I think more people need to see this type of activity and what this law does to people.”

Lawmakers are rushing through new legislation to fix their poorly written police reforms. But there’s no guarantee that any pass. Even still, what they pass may not address the issues officers have pointed out.

“You know the difference between right and wrong in a situation like this. You can’t go around breaking into people’s cars and stealing stuff with no ramifications. I just don’t understand it. And it just created a bunch of victims that day, unnecessarily, to be honest with you.”

Unfortunately, thanks to Democrat leadership in Olympia, you can, in fact, get away with these alleged crimes.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3–6 pm on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Man allegedly car prowls for an hour in broad daylight, as police couldn’t respond