Ask Capt. Oliveira: How to Combat Auto Burglaries

Capt. Steve Oliveira

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

“There is a ridiculous number of car break ins all over Natomas. What is being done about it? I’d like to see 10x more bait-cars and get the thieves off the streets.” —Chris Hubner

Dear reader:

The Natomas community is filled with wonderful shopping centers and robust neighborhoods, which unfortunately make it a target rich environment for auto burglaries. Auto burglaries are not unique to the Natomas area and have become a huge city, regional, and statewide problem. When it comes to residential neighborhoods, the trends we are seeing are two or more suspects entering a neighborhood or apartment complex during the night. The suspects quickly break the windows of several vehicles and steal what’s inside the vehicle before they flee the area. Unfortunately, a majority of the time the crime isn’t discovered until the following morning. These crimes are difficult to predict since they occur at random hours and locations throughout the city and region. A recent example is a Rocklin apartment complex where 75 cars were broken into in less than an hour. The suspects were arrested after using a credit card that had been taken from one of the cars that had been burglarized. We are seeing a common theme in that most auto burglary arrests involve suspects that are juveniles in their early teens.

In addition to auto burglaries in residential areas, we are experiencing a rise in shopping center and restaurant parking lots. Our investigations have revealed the culprits committing these crimes are typically organized crime rings from the Bay Area. In a recent news article it was mentioned that Bay Area gang members are traveling throughout California, including Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Sacramento, targeting tourists’ rental cars. We are seeing the same trend in Natomas with rental cars driven by travelers driving to and from the Sacramento International Airport. Unfortunately, local Natomas residents have also become victims of these thefts. We have made a number of arrests in these burglaries that have involved high speed pursuits with suspects fleeing back to the Bay Area.

We have made it a priority to dispatch officers on vehicle burglaries that are in progress or that just recently occurred. Our hope is that with good suspect descriptions and additional calls from witnesses or victims, our patrol officers will come across the suspects and get them in custody. We work closely with our Crime Analysis Unit to deploy both undercover and marked patrol cars to focus on these crimes based on the data provided to us. In addition, we currently have an officer assigned to our Problem Oriented Police team to focus solely on auto burglary investigation and prevention. Using technology to combat auto-burglary, such as our Bait Cars, has proven to be effective in the shopping center and restaurant parking lots to investigate and arrest suspects who continue to target these areas. We are adding additional Police Observation Devices at intersections, which include surveillance cameras and license plate reader systems, to capture video evidence for our investigators. We have also been working with the numerous shopping center owners encouraging them to install surveillance cameras to aid our investigators and provide additional video evidence of the car break ins. Burglarizing a locked car is a felony, but it’s only a misdemeanor if we catch them with the stolen property after the fact. If we detain them with the stolen property, but cannot prove they actually broke into the car, it is a misdemeanor crime unless the stolen property is valued at $950 or more. This is where video evidence plays a vital role.

One of the best tools we have to combat auto burglary is Prevention. If you have a garage, please use it for parking your car. Parking your car in your garage removes the quick access and opportunity for a thief to break into your vehicle. If your garage is full of stuff, consider getting a storage shed or renting a commercial storage unit. If you’re forced to park in the driveway or street, good lighting and high quality surveillance cameras may prevent and help identify suspects after the crime. Car alarms do help, but suspects will often break the window and reach inside without ever opening the door and setting off the alarm. Remember If you have to park in the driveway or in a parking lot, please lock your car, take your keys, garage door opener, and valuables and don’t leave anything in plain view. Even if it’s an empty bag, the suspect doesn’t know that and will break into the car to find out what’s inside. Several of our officers, to include myself, have been victims of auto burglaries and we understand the loss, anger, and frustration. If you witness an auto burglary or any crime in progress, please call 911 and provide the best description of the suspect(s), suspect vehicle, license plate, direction of travel and any other pertinent information to our dispatchers. We need to work together to keep our community safe!

—Capt. Oliveira

Capt. Steve Oliveira oversees the Sacramento Police Dept.’s north-area command, which includes Natomas. To submit your questions to Capt. Oliveira, send an email to [email protected] with “Ask Capt. Oliveira” in the subject line.

Speak Your Mind