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Thieves target unlocked cars

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunA rash of car break-ins has plagued the Tahoe Basin since the New Year. Thieves have entered unlocked cars parked along residential streets and driveways.
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Owners of unlocked cars parked in Tahoe-Truckee neighborhoods should be wary of night prowlers who have been taking advantage of Tahoe’s trusting residents.

A series of late-night or early-morning thefts targeting unlocked vehicles has been reported throughout the north and west shores of Tahoe to Placer County authorities. The Truckee Police Department also reported a “small uptick” in thefts from vehicles over the recent holidays, said Lt. Randy Fenn.

The thefts were reported in neighborhoods scattered throughout the Tahoe-Truckee area, on the West Shore, Tahoe Vista, Kings Beach, Northstar and all the way to the Ponderosa Palisades neighborhood in Truckee.



The incidents were mostly “easy grabs,” said Placer Sheriff’s Detective Sage Bourassa. The thieves entered mostly unlocked vehicles and took whatever was readily accessible to them.

Credit cards, cash, wallets, cell phones, CDs and snowboarding equipment were among the items reported stolen, but larger items typically found in cars, such as stereos, have been left alone in the string of thefts.



“They’re the crimes of opportunity,” Fenn said.

Vehicle thefts in the Tahoe-Truckee area tend to come and go in waves, according to Bourassa.

“It’s usually we get one person that’s interested in doing that, or a group of people,” she said.

The trend continues until law enforcement officials catch up with the suspects. After the case is closed, things usually quiet down for a while, Bourassa said, until the cycle starts again with another string of vehicle thefts.

“It’s pretty random,” she said.

Though the recent thefts mostly occurred over the span of the holiday season, when the Tahoe Basin swells with visitors from the Bay Area and Sacramento, Bourassa said she did not associate the vehicle thefts with visitors.

The majority of the recent victims were full-time residents, she said. And the thefts have predominantly occurred in residential neighborhoods.

Fenn, however, said the influx of visitors and their vehicles possibly increased the numbers of reported thefts.

“There’s this false assumption of, ‘Oh, I’ve left the big city behind,'” Fenn said. “And while certainly we don’t have nearly the crime the cities do, people still need to be smart.”

According to the Placer County Sheriff’s logs, more than $400 worth of property was removed from two unlocked vehicles in Tahoe Vista on the night of Jan. 4.

On Dec. 30, an unknown suspect broke into a vehicle parked in Kingswood off Highway 267 with a slim-jim device. And on Jan. 2, an unknown suspect entered a vehicle in Northstar from a sunroof and stole a computer left in the car.

On the night of Jan. 11, a suspect stole property from four unlocked vehicles ” two in Carnelian Bay, one in Northstar and one in Tahoe City.

Law enforcement officials attributed the four incidents to the same suspect because of the overlapping time frames on the same night, Bourassa said. Officials have identified a suspect, but a lack of evidence is blocking the sheriffs from filing charges.

“At this point, we don’t have a hard fact to connect them,” Bourassa said.


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