Good memories! Not many of us would be likely to remember a specific car we happened to see earlier in the day, but Jeff Cooper and Roger Neal -- two employees of the city of White Salmon -- did remember, and it led to the swift recovery of a stolen vehicle.
On the morning of Aug. 17, Officer Jim Andring of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department took a report of a vehicle that had been stolen from Bridge RV Park along State Route 14. According to the police report, a green Toyota Land Cruiser valued at about $12,000 had been stolen sometime during the night.
Inside the Land Cruiser was an estimated $11,600 worth of windsurfing equipment and other valuable items.
Officer Andring was on duty when the report came in, and he met with the victim to get a description of the missing vehicle.
Almost immediately after taking the report from the owner of the stolen Toyota, Andring noticed two city employees nearby, making their usual rounds in the city's garage truck. He figured it made sense to enlist their help.
The employees were Roger Neal and Jeff Cooper. Andring advised them about the crime, and requested that they keep their eyes open in case they happened to see a green 1999 Toyota with Oregon plates somewhere along their route.
It turned out they had already seen it -- behind a building up the hill in White Salmon.
"Immediately, Mr. Neal and Mr. Cooper advised me they had seen the Land Cruiser during their rounds that morning, and the vehicle was parked behind the Department of Licensing office [at 156 NE Church]," explained an amazed Andring. "I drove to the building and found the vehicle was parked there. The back hatch was open, the keys were on the driver's seat, and the only thing missing from the car was a pair of sunglasses! The vehicle was recovered only five minutes after I left the victim."
Neal, who has worked for the city of White Salmon for about five years, said the Toyota left an impression.
"We usually know what's around, and that car didn't look right there," Neal explained. "Jeff saw it first. It was open, and usually only the people who work there park behind that building, and it was real early. Then when Jim asked us if we'd seen a car like that, it was crazy."
Andring was deeply appreciative of the awareness shown by Cooper and Neal, and praised them in a letter to Mayor Francis Gaddis.
"I have always thought of our city crew members as being valuable assets to the city," Andring wrote. "This is just one shining example of their extreme value to our community. Thanks to Roger and Jeff, I was able to return the vehicle and contents to a very satisfied customer."
Neal said it was all in a day's work.
"It's no problem. I'm glad we could help," Neal said.
Police Chief Bruce Brending said the investigation is continuing.
"No suspects have been identified," Brending said. "Anyone with any information on this or other crimes, please give us a call."
The telephone number for the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department is 493-1177.