‘Prolific’ SE Portland car thief caught red-handed

In our continuing coverage of Portland’s skyrocketing rate of car thefts, see how taking just one car-stealing criminal off the streets can make the whole community safer …

Portland Police SE Precinct Officer Terry Colbert stands before a table, laden with goods allegedly stolen from cars in S.E. Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Thanks to sharp-eyed cops, one less car thief is on the street. In this case, this means your car is now much less likely to be stolen.

When most people are heading to work on August 7, Portland Police Bureau Southeast Precinct officers, working an Auto Theft Detail [mission], are already on the job. They are on the lookout for a stolen 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid.

About 8:00 a.m. the officers spot the car and follow the car as it heads north on SE McLoughlin Blvd. The driver tries to ditch the cops by cutting into the neighborhood, but is stopped at SE 6th Ave. and SE Woodward St.

Wanted passenger bolts; is arrested
Police reports say the driver of the allegedly stolen car, 25-year-old Russell Konell, is taken into custody without incident.

But, a call from an alert reader reporting a large police presence, a foot pursuit, and an arrest in the area of SE 8th Avenue and Powell Boulevard at about 8:30 am, caused us to question whether or not Konell had complied with officers when he was stopped.

According to police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz, Konell had a passenger in the car when it was stopped — 25-year-old Laura Wardius bolted from the car; she had outstanding warrants for her arrest, and was taken into custody.

More than a car thief
At Southeast Precinct, Officer Terry Colbert tells us that they’ve been investigating Konell for several weeks.

“Konell is prolific. We finally caught him behind the wheel of a stolen car,” Colbert says. “We target these guys, and try to get them off the street, so they’re not stealing more cars.”

A search of the suspect’s home turned up items police say were used for ID theft, various items including cell phones – and this loaded pistol.

Through interviews and investigation, officers are able to connect him with more stolen vehicles, adds Colbert. “We got a search warrant for his house, and found a lot of property we believe is stolen.”

Colbert shows us items he says officers found at Konell’s residence, in the 1600 block of S.E. Rex Street in Sellwood. “It’s mostly things taken out of cars, like stereos, [GPS] navigation units, laptop computers, cell phones, garage door openers, and items used for ID theft. In a related vehicle, we found a loaded .22 caliber pistol.”

Police say they suspect this laptop computer was stolen from a car.

The property on display, Colbert says, is only part of the items Konell is alleged to have stolen. “We know where a lot of this property came from; we have released some of it to the victims.”

‘Jail time’ makes community safer
In the case of individuals they’ve identified as “prolific” car thieves, Colbert says they work to build multiple cases against them. “We refer those cases to the District Attorney. When charged with multiple property crimes, they will usually get more jail time, or be sent to prison. For that time they’re in jail, the community is a lot safer.”

Police accuse this man, 25-year-old Russell Konell, of being a “prolific” car thief.

This isn’t Konell’s first brush with the law. “This subject is on ‘supervision’ with Multnomah County Parole & Probations,” says Colbert. “He’s charged with two counts of Possession of Stolen Motor Vehicle; he has a ‘detainer’ put on him by his probation officer. He’s currently in jail.”

In addition to stealing “high end vehicles” and theft from vehicles, officials say Konell has been charged with Possession of Methamphetamine. “He’s a good one to get off the streets,” Colbert comments.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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