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An Oregon State Police forensic criminologist out of Pendleton documents potential evidence at the scene of the OSP vehicle break-in in La Grande. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer
by DICK MASON / The Observer
No arrests were made over the weekend as police continue to investigate the theft of a semi-automatic firearm from a marked Oregon State Police car.
The vehicle was broken into sometime between 4:30 p.m. Thursday and 8:30 a.m. Friday in La Grande. The OSP car was parked at the home of an OSP trooper in the vicinity of 11th Street and M Avenue. The stolen weapon was a Colt 16A1 semi-automatic rifle. The firearm was in a mounted locked bracket when it was stolen, according to an OSP report. The individual or individuals broke into the police car by smashing in a window.
The OSP and the La Grande Police Department conducted an extensive investigation of the break in Friday. A team from the OSP Crime Lab in Pendleton was called in to assist with the investigation.
It is extremely rare for marked police vehicles to be broken into, according to Sgt. Kyle Hove of the OSP and Sgt. Gary Bell of the La Grande Police Department, two officers who helped investigate the break in.
Hove has worked in law enforcement for 14 years and Bell for 20 years and neither recall a case in which a marked police vehicle was broken into.
The police car the rifle was stolen from did not have an alarm. The OSP has refrained from putting alarms in its vehicles as a cost-saving measure, Hove said.
The OSP and La Grande Police Department are taking the break in seriously not only because it involved a police car and a stolen weapon but also because there are many break-ins into vehicles here each year. A total of 160 cars were entered illegally in 2012 in Union County, according to Lt. Derick Reddington of the La Grande Police Department.
“The number of car clouts is fairly consistent,” Reddington said.
A “car clout” is a term often used by police when referring to an illegal entry into a motor vehicle.
The majority of the break-ins take place between May and August.
Many of the vehicles broken into are not locked. Reddington urges people to not only lock their cars but also remove their valuable items or keep them out of sight.