When he took the backpack from this vehicle near Bellingham, he actually took the bait

Sheriff’s detectives used a GPS tracker in a cell phone to find and arrest a man who allegedly stole a backpack from a parked vehicle in the 3100 block of Locust Avenue.

The tracking device was inside a backpack that was placed as bait on Friday, June 7, because the area had been repeatedly targeted by vehicle prowlers in recent weeks, according to a release from the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.

The area is near Locust Beach, a popular kiteboarding spot just outside Bellingham.

Detectives received an alert at 11:54 a.m. Friday that the device had been stolen. It was taking photos of the suspected thief and sending them to the detectives, who were using the GPS to track it.

They found the suspect driving near Northwest Drive and Jefferson Street and stopped him. When questioned, he admitted to stealing the backpack, according to the release.

The man was identified as 32-year-old David A. Barber, who was booked into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of second-degree theft, second-degree vehicle prowl and third-degree driving with a suspended license.

Sheriff Bill Elfo reminded people that nice weather can bring out more than outdoor enthusiasts, and explained why authorities used the cell phone.

“Vehicle prowls increase during the summer weather,” Elfo said in the release. “Given the number of trailheads, parks and public beaches, it is difficult for deputies to closely monitor these areas. The ‘bait device’ was planted in a car and notified deputies when it was removed.”

He said a grant from the Sheriff’s Foundation made it possible for his office to have “multiple devices to capture those who steal from others.”

Anyone with information about Barber’s alleged involvement in other vehicle prowls is urged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 360-778-6600.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.