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UPDATE | Police say eyewitness, forensics and property connect suspect to crime spree
Bainbridge Island Police arrested a 21-year-old transient Tuesday afternoon who is believed to be responsible for the recent rash of car break-ins across the island.
Aaron Michaels Bylsma was arrested in connection to three car thefts, three burglaries and about 40 car prowls since Dec. 9.
Bylsma was first identified as a suspect after an officer saw him "acting suspiciously" near an area where car thefts and prowls had occurred.
At the time, officers could not make an arrest because he could not be immediately tied to a crime. However, just after he was released, another car prowl was found nearby.
According to Bainbridge police, Bylsma has been found connected to several incidents in the crime spree through found property, forensics and eyewitness identification.
While his involvement has not yet been connected to the total reported incidents of vehicle prowls and burglaries, police said Wednesday they expect the number to increase as investigators continue to piece together evidence.
"We are confident that we have our man, but that does not mean that people should let down their guard," said Bainbridge Island Police Chief Matthew Hamner.
Hamner also said the three stolen cars have been recovered, as well as several items believed to be stolen.
Bainbridge police are now asking residents to step forward who may have had items stolen from their vehicles or witnessed suspicious activity.
"Even something as insignificant as a pair of inexpensive sunglasses can help tie a suspect to a crime, so please contact us if you believe you have been a victim of theft or you have information about the case,” Hamner said.
Hamner thanked his fellow officers and nearby law enforcement agencies that assisted in the arrest.
Hamner added that about 12.5 percent of reported burglaries and auto thefts nationwide have success in identifying a suspect.
"I want to recognize the professionalism, effort, hard work and dedication exhibited by members of the BIPD," Hamner said. "The community should be proud of their police department and comforted to know that they are striving to keep you safe."
"We are sending a message to criminals that if they plan to commit crimes on Bainbridge, they should plan to get caught," he said.
Bylsma was booked into Kitsap County Jail for car prowling and for failing to appear/contempt of court. His bail has been set at $5,000 for the car prowl charge, and $1,000 for the earlier court case.
Bylsma's next appearance in court has been scheduled for Monday, Dec. 30.