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Spark plug is often tool of choice for car prowlers

Although the vast majority of car prowls on Mercer Island occur with unlocked cars, some thieves can’t resist a wallet left in plain view. Or a Blackberry, laptop, GPS ... anything worth a profit through identity theft or re-sale.

Car prowlers often use a tool, rock or spark plug for “smash and grab” thefts.

Small ceramic pieces chipped off the tip of a spark plug are used to break car windows, Sgt. Marc Marcroft wrote in an email to the Reporter, adding the ceramic chips shatter glass more easily and with much less noise.

A Google search for “spark plug auto theft” churns out information about “ninja rocks,” another term for the small pieces of ceramic chipped off the tip of a spark plug.

Search for “ninja rocks” on YouTube and the top two hits are video tutorials of how to break into a car with a spark plug.

Another Google search for “spark plug windows” churns out two video links and more than 15 pages with “how-to” information.

Target areas are everywhere, Marcroft wrote. Cars parked in low-lit areas with valuables visible often entice prowlers.

Marcroft encourages Islanders to lock their cars, park in well-lit areas and remove all valuables.

“Car alarms are also good deterrents,” he wrote, “but are not fail-safe.”

There have been 29 reports of car prowls this year, according to Mercer Island Police Department records.

Since July 1 the department has received a dozen reports of vehicle prowls. Six cases involved unlocked cars. The other half were victims of “smash and grab” prowlers.

Although officers do their best to work with evidence left at the break-in, very few prowlers ever get caught.

“Sometimes we get a break in a case when another jurisdiction makes an arrest and locates the stolen property, but not often,” he wrote. Other times the Mercer Island Police Department recovers stolen property from an off-island theft and helps another agency break a case.

Marcroft advises anyone who becomes a victim of car prowling to immediately cancel all missing credit cards and place fraud alerts on their accounts, then report the crime to the police.

“The best approach is to avoid the situation by taking preventive measures,” he wrote.

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