Men arrested amid surge in thefts from vehicles in Five Cities area

jhickey@thetribunenews.comAugust 8, 2013 

Three men believed to be partly responsible for a rash of recent vehicle burglaries in the Five Cities area have been arrested since Aug. 1.

From Jan. 1 to July 31, there have been 113 vehicle thefts or burglaries in Arroyo Grande, Police Chief Steve Annibali said.

In July, thefts from vehicles more than tripled in the Five Cities area, and more than 60 percent of the thefts were from unlocked cars, according to a news release from the Arroyo Grande Police Department.

The first arrest occurred on Aug. 1 when Arroyo Grande police officers were handling an early-morning disturbance call on Grieb Drive.

They came into contact with 23-year-old Matthew Ortega of Oceano, who was found in possession of a driver’s license and credit cards that were confirmed stolen from a nearby resident’s unlocked vehicle.

Ortega was arrested on suspicion of receiving and concealing stolen property.

On the morning of Aug. 6 — one day after a spate of vehicle thefts in Arroyo Grande — officers tracked two other suspects to a motel in Pismo Beach. With the assistance of the Pismo Beach Police Department, officers arrested Jesse Cornelison, 23, of Los Osos and Chad Lawrence, 31, of Atascadero in connection with multiple vehicle burglaries.

Property located in their motel room was linked to at least six separate thefts in Pismo Beach, five in Arroyo Grande, and at least one in Grover Beach, police said.

Cornelison was arrested on suspicion of receiving and concealing stolen property, as well as on two outstanding felony warrants. Cornelison had been released from custody as a result of California’s prison realignment plan, or AB 109.

Lawrence was also arrested on an outstanding warrant with charges of robbery, burglary, and assault with a deadly weapon. His involvement in the thefts and receiving stolen property is still under investigation.

The recovery of stolen property did not include the gun and badge stolen from the Arroyo Grande police chief’s unmarked vehicle on July 7. That investigation is still ongoing.

Police urge people to lock their vehicles and not to leave valuable items inside, and to report suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.

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