Photo by Jerry Gay
Rajesh Raman, the latest and perhaps most affected victim of a string of car break-ins in East Ballard, was shocked to find his car’s back window completely shattered in the morning.

East Ballard neighbors feel vulnerable after string of car break-ins

For the residents around NW 52nd St in East Ballard, the last thing they expected was for them to be the victims of a string of car break-ins. Everyone interviewed said they lived on one of the safest blocks in the neighborhood.

“I have been here for 5 years and this is the first time I have experienced anything like this,” Nicole Matuska wrote to the Ballard News-Tribune. “I brag to others about the safe and wonderful neighborhood in which I live. Now I am starting to be concerned about staying here if this doesn't change, especially as the block seems to be targeted night after night right now.”

While Matuska’s car was broken into and her belongings rifled through, she did not have anything actually stolen. Other neighbors have reported the same strange incident.

But things began escalating last week. On the night of Sunday, May 5, Angie Calvetti’s woke up in the middle of the night to her daughter’s car alarm going off. The suspect or suspects had broken into the car and stolen her daughter’s wallet. Nearby neighbors reported seeing a man, apparently spooked, run away and jump on a bicycle.

Luckily, the wallet was recovered shortly thereafter as the suspect had dumped it off nearby. Like Matuska, in the two years that Calvetti has lived on the block, nothing has happened.

Rajesh Raman was not as lucky. He woke up sometime in the night to his dog Baxter barking, but, thinking it was just his new neighbor making noise, rolled over and went back to sleep. When Raman got up in the morning and opened the front door, though, Baxter bolted out as if something was wrong. And then Raman saw the back window of his car completely shattered.

“I saw the glass and said, ‘OK’ … it kind’ve came together,” Raman said.

In the back, he had a box of awards from work that was stolen. He had put it there as he was packing up to move at the end of the week. Until the latest incident, he had been adamant about staying in the area.

“I lived here five years now and I’ve been saying I’d like to stay in this neighborhood because it’s so safe. I’ve actually left my side door open before, by accident, and nothing’s happened,” he said. “…Ever since I came here there hasn’t been a peep.”

While he still wants to live in the area -- he said he realized he lived in a city and that crimes do occur -- he isn’t quite as optimistic about it as before.

“This kind of stuff really puts a damper on … if I find a place I’m going to get one with a garage,” he said.

The suspect appears to be going for convenience rather than high-priced items. Most likely he didn’t know that Raman’s box contained awards, but seeing it sitting in the back could have been tantalizing. Same with Calvetti’s daughter’s wallet.

When the suspect realizes he has nothing of value, he seems to be dumping it in random places. In front of Raman’s house was a pile of miscellaneous items -- a pair of shoes, energy bars, a tote bag and more. Some of it was from Calvetti’s daughter’s car. Calvetti reported waking up one morning to a baby stroller in the trees of her front yard that belonged to a nearby neighbor. Police have been returning whatever items have been reported to them.


Photo by Jerry Gay

In addition, during April, another, perhaps unrelated string of incidents occurred on NW 52nd St. Neighbors reported multiple incidents of thieves ripping out plants from large and medium planters and stealing the pots, according to a Neighborhood Watch email obtained by the Ballard News-Tribune. In one case, neighbors know it happened between 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm.

“This is a new one! I don't think we've seen this happen before,” the email continued. “Definitely an odd kind of theft. Please keep your eyes open and if you see anything unusual, don't hesitate to call police.”

Calvetti reported some frustration in working with responding officers on the car break-ins, who have told her that there will likely be no follow-up investigation, even though there is a string of apparently connected crimes committed by the same person or persons. Raman said that his responding officer also seemed to be dispassionate about any further investigation.

Furthermore, Calvetti said she has seen a suspicious black truck prowling through the neighborhood at night. But even if she were to get the license plate number, police said they most likely could not justify looking into it.

Neighbors have started working with community police officers, who they say have been more helpful. Calvetti said they confirmed an increase in car break-ins recently.

For neighbors’ part, where once they may have been careless, now they are careful to lock their cars up and to not leave any valuables or targetable belongings in plain sight, either in the car or on their front porch. They are also keeping an eye open for any suspicious activity happening in the neighborhood and say that anything and everything possibly related to the crimes should be reported to the police.

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