The Cambrian

Thefts on the rise in Cambria, SLO County

Yes, there have been more thefts on the North Coast lately, as well as in other areas of San Luis Obispo County, according to Sheriff’s Office officials and dispatch logs.

Cmdr. Jim Taylor told North Coast Advisory Council members last month that between March 16 and April 20 on the North Coast (from Cayucos to the Monterey County line), sheriff’s deputies had 379 calls for service, including 14 petty thefts and three burglaries.

Taylor said there and at the Cambria Community Services District’s board meeting April 28 that a rise in thefts is being seen across the county.

He said there’s an “ebb and flow” in the number of thefts, but that one probable cause for some recent increases is that “kinder and gentler” safer streets initiatives have emboldened thieves/burglars by reducing penalties for lesser crimes from jail time to citation.

“We’re seeing property crimes across the board go up,” Taylor said. “A lot of it … might be prevented if we locked our cars.”

In fact, 11 of those petty thefts were from unlocked vehicles on March 23. One involved use of a stolen ATM card. In another crime, a package was stolen off someone’s porch.

Some local burglaries have been far from petty.

After DNA was recovered from a stolen-then-recovered $90,000 2014 Jaguar, a 23-year-old man was arrested April 13 on felony charges of burglary, theft by fraudulent use of an access card, unauthorized use of a vehicle and a misdemeanor charge of violating probation. Taylor said Mika Boone Clendenin also faces a one-year enhancement of mandatory state prison time for theft of a car valued at more than $65,000.

Other burglaries involved money and wine taken from Lombardi’s restaurant, and Chinese funds stolen from a vehicle parked near the elephant-seal rookery.

Taylor also said phone scams have been rampant lately (as have email scams). He said there “were10 reports on April 10 alone of bogus IRS calls trying to collect money via scams/threats. None of the call recipients fell for it.”

One local resident wasn’t as fortunate, having been hit with the so-called “grandchild scam.” The thief apparently told the resident that her grandson was in jail in Chile after a traffic accident, so she wired more than $2,900 to the supposed Chilean attorney. The resident later confirmed that she’d been defrauded after learning from family members that her grandson was not in jail and had not been in an accident anywhere.

Some area residents are taking the situation into their own hands. After a $1,100 Generator was stolen out of a locked tool box in the back of a truck in early April, one man posted on Facebook that he was going to do random nighttime patrols through Cambria neighborhoods. He pledged to use “extreme caution and safety when suspicious circumstances are discovered.”

Other residents have said they’re watching carefully for a big man in a dark car who has been driving repeatedly, slowly, in their neighborhoods. When they see him next, they’ll call 911, they say.

That’s the safe way to handle the situation, according to law enforcers.

When The Cambrian asked sheriff’s officials how Sheriff Ian Parkinson and his deputies feel about having the public’s help in catching the thieves, spokesman Tony Cipolla replied April 12 that “the sheriff has always encouraged the public to be our ‘eyes and ears’ in helping us combat crime. That’s why we have SAVP members (Sheriff's Auxiliary Volunteer Patrol).”

Cipolla stressed that “the sheriff doesn’t want members of the public to take the law into their own hands, but they can help us out by reporting to law enforcement anything suspicious happening in their neighborhoods.”

Kathe Tanner: 805-927-4140