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Published: Saturday, July 10, 2010, 4:51 a.m.

Colton Harris-Moore can’t run forever, experts say

Experts predict the end of the line is near for Colton Harris-Moore, who may have hopped islands.

  • FILE - This July 2009 file self-portrait provided by the Island County Sheriff's Office shows Colton Harris-Moore, the so-called "Barefoot Bandit...

    FILE - This July 2009 file self-portrait provided by the Island County Sheriff's Office shows Colton Harris-Moore, the so-called "Barefoot Bandit". Police were hunting across a tourist island Tuesday July 6, 2010 for signs of a pilot who vanished after wrecking a small plane in the Bahamas and investigators in the U.S. turned their suspicions toward an American teenager on the run dubbed "the Barefoot Bandit." The single-engine Cessna that crashed in shallow waters off Abaco island was apparently stolen from an airport in Bloomington, Indiana. By the time rescuers arrived on Sunday, nobody was inside. (AP Photo/Island County Sheriff's Office via The Herald) NO SALES

The cat-and-mouse game an elusive fugitive from Camano Island is playing with police cannot go on forever.
Experts on Friday predicted that Colton Harris-Moore likely is facing imminent capture.
“The smell of the end is coming and hopefully it will be a good end and not a bad end,” Island County sheriff’s Detective Ed Wallace said Friday.
Wallace is all too familiar with Harris-Moore, 19. The detective has investigated his crimes for more than eight years.
Wanted by the FBI and police in eight states and three countries, the serial burglar is a suspect in more than 70 different incidents. He’s allegedly stolen more than $3 million worth of property including luxury cars, boats and, as of last weekend, five airplanes.
Harris-Moore, who has no formal flight training, is suspected of piloting a $650,000 sophisticated single-engine plane from Indiana more than 1,000 miles to the Bahamas. The wrecked plane was found ditched in an offshore marsh on July 4.
“The part that scares me is that he seems to be getting grander and grander and less concerned with concealing his identity,” Wallace said.
Harris-Moore reportedly has been seen on surveillance video breaking into bars in the Bahamas, stealing beer and hunting for food and cash.
For much of the past week Bahamian officials hunted the teen with assistance from the FBI. Wanted posters were distributed and heavily armed police scoured brush and worked to set up an islandwide dragnet to prevent Harris-Moore from leaving.
The effort may have been in vain.
A 44-foot pleasure boat was stolen from an Abaco marina and recovered about 40 miles south on Eleuthera Island. There was speculation Friday that Harris-Moore took the vessel, which is similar to those he’s stolen in the past.
Harris-Moore escaped a Seattle-area group home in April 2008 where he was serving a sentence for break-ins on Camano Island.
Since then, he’s been on a crime spree that extends from the Pacific Northwest into the Midwest and now to the warm waters off the Florida coast.
“What will generally happen, at some point, he’ll feel so invincible and unstoppable he won’t be so careful,” said James Alan Fox, an expert criminologist who teaches at Northeastern University in Boston. “He may get complacent. When that will happen, who knows?”
Harris-Moore may be enjoying the romanticism of his adventures, Fox said. The crimes may be becoming easy to commit and the criminal could believe that the police are no match for his skills.
“When you start cutting corners, it can ultimately lead to his capture,” Fox said.
Mike Rocha is an Everett bounty hunter who has volunteered his time to help track Harris- Moore. He said he was considering flying to the Bahamas to join the search there.
The trick to bringing him in will be being at the right place at the right time, Rocha said.
“We know what he does, we know who he is,” he said. “We know he likes airports, boats and vacation homes.”
Still, each time police seem to catch up with Harris-Moore, he manages to skip off somewhere else.
“He’s motivated, and that’s the tough part,” Rocha said.
Police last arrested Harris-Moore on Feb. 9, 2007. A neighbor spied lights on in an empty vacation home on the southern end of Camano Island.
Two Island County deputies raced to the scene. They used the beams of their flashlights as a ruse to make it appear that police had surrounded the home.
Harris-Moore, then 15, refused to give up until his mother was called to the scene.
Eventually, Harris-Moore’s current crime spree will have to end, Wallace said.
Whether the teen surrenders to police or is snared at the scene of crime is anybody’s guess. But the detective believes Harris-Moore will not just recede into obscurity.
“I don’t see him going quietly off into the sunset,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437; jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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