Car Theft Spree

SPOKANE -- In what is being called an "unprecedented explosion" of auto thefts by Spokane Police Department officials, 80 cars were stolen from city streets between Aug. 12-20. Deputy Chief Al Odenthal briefed the media on Tuesday, after 14 more cars were reported stolen, offering no firm explanation for the sudden crime wave.

Police believe some of the thefts are cases of joyriding, as some cars have been recovered after a short time. But Odenthal couldn't confirm speculation that it's part of an organized crime ring that takes the vehicles out of town to be sold or broken down for parts. The fact that Ford Probes seemed to be targeted bolstered this theory, as that car is no longer in production and parts may be valuable. But Odenthal, who said there are people in the area known to steal cars for transportation, could only offer that the investigation is ongoing.

In the meantime, he said, "we'd like to get as many of those cars back to their owners as we continue to work the case." If you see an unfamiliar car parked in your neighborhood, Odenthal asked that you report it to police, as it could be one of the stolen cars.

Odenthal did add that meth could be playing a role: "We do have this cycle -- meth, identity theft, auto theft. I can't say that all these are done by meth users, but I'd say at least some of them are."

And Odenthal warned citizens to lock their cars, park in groups in parking lots and in their driveway or garage at home. He also suggested that Spokane's relatively low cop-to-resident ratio could be part of the reason arrests aren't coming as quickly as calls to Crime Check. In the city, there are about 1.3 police officers for every 1,000 citizens; the average on the West Coast is more like 1.7 -- in Seattle, it's about two per 1,000.

-- Ted S. McGregor, Jr.

Rally for the River

SPOKANE -- The Lands Council is throwing a bash for the Spokane River in Riverfront Park this Saturday.

"The focus was on the entire watershed here, much of the headwater forest has been destroyed and there are more logging projects planned," says Neil Beaver with the Lands Council. "But now, after the EPA meeting in Spokane last week, we might try to focus more on the Coeur d'Alene basin cleanup commission."

Beaver says Washington State was sold short when Governor Locke signed off on the commission's makeup.

"We think that's a big mistake, we needed a different commission," he says. "Both the city and county and Chamber of Commerce all agree. We don't agree with the Chamber that often, but here we are on the same line."

More than 25 environmental organizations will have exhibits at the Rally, and local activist Judith Gilmore and Paul Lindholdt will be speaking. The event begins with a prayer service held by elders from the Spokane Tribe, and music will be provide throughout the day by local band 10 Minutes Down and many others.

-- Pia K. Hansen

Rally for the River is in Riverfront Park on Saturday, Aug. 28, beginning at noon. Free. Call: 838-4912.

New Digs

SPOKANE -- Spokane County is taking it's elections office to a new place, literally. The elections office and warehouse operations will now be housed in the same building and will "make operations and communication easier and more efficient," says County Auditor Vicky Dalton.

The elections office needed a new home due to the construction of a new Superior Courtroom in the space that was occupied by the elections office. The new location of the elections office is two blocks north of the old site. It is located in the Gardner Center Building at 1033 W. Gardner Ave.

The elections office is also sending out new Voter Registration cards. The cards reflect the newly redrawn precincts of Spokane County. Mike McLaughlin of the Spokane County Elections office says, "We want to give people the opportunity to register to vote absentee." The reason is that the absentee voters had a 60 percent turnout in the May special election. Poll-site voters only accounted for 19.6 percent of the turnout.

The elections office also has a very comprehensive Web site ( that offers visitors a variety of services and information. McLaughlin points out, "You can register to vote, there are precinct maps, and a listing off all the issues on the September ballot."

-- Clint Burgess

Skate for a Cause: Habitat for Humanity @ Numerica Skate Ribbon

Wed., Nov. 30, 4-8 p.m.
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