Crime trends across the Lower Valley

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- A run of the KIMA Crime Tracker is looking at trouble across the Lower Valley. KIMA found burglaries dropped in most places while thieves set their sights on cars instead.

The feeling of panic and shock was what Frank Delgadillo felt a few weeks ago. A brief moment was all it took for him to realize his car was missing.

"I just walked inside real quick, thought I was going to grab my lunch real quick and then second thought, I'll grab something extra," said Frank. "It took up another minute, minute and a half. Maybe within that minute and a half, it's how long it took that guy to jump in my car to take off."

Frank was lucky. Police found his car a few days later, but the thieves still had his keys. They stole his car again.

"At that moment when it happened, I was like oh crud," said Frank.

Amazingly, police recovered Frank's car a second time, but stories like this can be preventable.

Toppenish police said that most car thefts are crime opportunities, meaning people that just leave their cars idle make it easier for thieves that drive by just to snatch it.

KIMA pulled the numbers for car thefts across the Lower Valley. Wapato and Sunnyside had figures that were roughly flat from 2011 to 2012. While Toppenish and Grandview each added 15 more cases in that period.

Wapato, Toppenish, and Sunnyside had 30 fewer burglary cases reported from 2011 to 2012. While Grandview saw almost 20 more cases.

"Before we would turn off the lights, now we leave them all on in the night," said Tatiana Delgadillo. "We just have the door locked all the time."

Toppenish and Grandview Police put more patrols in the areas where these crimes happened. Sunnyside Police credited its gang-elimination strategy with helping reduce crime. These are efforts to help neighbors feel more at ease and less likely to become a property theft victim.

Sunnyside police also gives away free steering wheel locks to help you protect your car. City residents can pick one up at the Sunnyside Police Department.