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Pizza parlor owner hot about crime in Bonney Lake

By Teresa Herriman, The Courier-Herald

Carl Polly is steamin' mad.

In the three years since he opened Carl's Pizza, at 21111 state Route 410 East, he has been burglarized three times, had his delivery car stolen twice, been hit by a drunk driver at the stop sign near his store and been passed numerous stolen and bad checks. But he's really torqued about the thief who stole his Father's Day bicycle. "I'm still looking for it," he fumed.

A compact, athletic man, Polly was at his wits end when Bonney Lake Councilman Phil DeLeo recommended he present his grievance at a Public Safety Committee meeting. So, last week, Polly did just that. He told the three committee members - Dave King, Neil Johnson and DeLeo - about the time his store window was shattered. Thieves took only a gumball machine, but it cost Polly $800 to repair the window. He described how the first time his car was stolen, he was standing inside his store, less than 20 feet away. Most recently, thieves stole his entire video security system.

In addition, Polly caught a gas thief at the Safeway fuel station in December, a shoplifter two days later at the Safeway deli and a 40-year old woman who tried to flee Ben Franklin Craft and Frame Shop with stolen merchandise. "I've seen a lot," Polly said.

Polly doesn't like to think of himself as a hero. "I'm just hyper-aware," he said. "This stuff happens in front of people all the time," Polly said. "They just don't see it or choose not to do anything about it."

Last year, a man came into his store wearing a three-piece suit and driving a brand new pick-up truck. When he paid for his pizza with a check that bore an address in a less-than desirable Tacoma neighborhood, Polly was suspicious. While the man's pizza was being prepared, Polly called the police. Not only was the check stolen, the fellow was wanted on three felonies and had just stolen the truck from a car lot. Polly distracted the man while three police officers arrived with guns drawn.

"I work 90 hours a week," the father of five said. "I compete with six major competitors within two miles. I don't have time for this."

Police Chief Bryan Jeter agrees with Polly. The problem is that many of the crimes simply don't get reported. "If it's not reported, there's not a whole lot we can do about it," Jeter explained. "It's frustrating on our part, too."

Often, petty theft is too time-consuming for larger businesses to report. They prefer to simply let their insurance provider cover the cost. But for smaller businesses, like Carl's Pizza, the hit can be devastating financially and personally. "It's not just what they took, it's the fact they were in my store," Polly said. For that reason, he said, he doesn't keep cash at his store.

Polly blames the the shopping center's crime spree on methamphetamine and easy access to escape routes. With its close proximity to the highway and the Washington State University Demonstration Forest, "You can steal something from here and head for the woods," Polly said.

Although the woods provide covered access for criminals, Jeter said crime at the shopping center is not higher than other locations on state Route 410. As far as the meth problem, Jeter said "the theory is definitely sound, but we don't have conclusive proof."

Polly said the Bonney Lake Police Department is doing the best it can, but officers can't be everywhere at once. "I have nothing but praise for those guys," he said. "But what can I do?"

The police have stepped up patrols in the area.

Jeter is still finalizing statistics for 2003, but overall, he said, uniform crime such as homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and arson dropped 7.5 percent in Bonney Lake from the previous year - from 894 reported crimes in 2002 to 829 in 2003.

Polly said members of the Public Safety Commission have suggested organizing a local merchant watch and Jeter confirmed he had asked Community Service Officer Steve Flaherty to explore that option. In addition, the Bonney Lake Police Department provides on-site training classes for Crime Watch participants and maintains a Business Watch through the Chamber of Commerce. Citizens can also help by providing anonymous tips to the program through the city Web site (www.ci.bonney-lake.wa.us(. Jeter also has suggested merchants consider hiring a commercial security company to patrol the shopping center.

Polly asked the committee what he could do if he caught someone in his store. "They said it was legal for me to slam them to the ground," he said with a smile. "But they advised me not to do it. I might get shot."

Teresa Herriman can be reached at therriman@courierherald.com.

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