With home and vehicle burglaries still happening frequently on Lake Tahoe's North Shore, law enforcement is warning residents and visitors to be mindful of their belongings - particularly high-end electronics and new winter sports gear - as winter approaches.
Shane Jones, 24, of Kings Beach was arrested on Nov. 17 on numerous charges, including shoplifting and thefts from automobiles in the area, the Placer County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday. Jones, who worked as a security guard, had an active petty theft warrant and was charged with several narcotics crimes, including being under the influence of a stimulant drug and possession of psilocybin mushrooms, according to PCSO. Among the stolen items he possessed were prescription drugs, a security safe and a pistol.
While Jones is the most recent arrest regarding an alleged connection to an increasing number of small-time burglaries across the North Shore the past five-plus years, he certainly is not the first, said PCSO Sgt. John Giovannini.
"This is just our most recent arrestee," he said. "There are a lot of people out there who don't even realize something's been stolen until we call them weeks later and say, 'Hey, do you know where your cellphone is ... or where your prescription pills are?'"
Washoe County Sheriff's Office Detective Richard Ramm was dispatched this week to Incline Village to investigate similar burglaries happening on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. While there hasn't necessarily been an "increase" in the crimes in Incline, they still are frequent, he said.
This week, Ramm is "canvassing a couple areas of interest," although he wouldn't reveal which specific neighborhoods for fear of compromising the leads he is gathering. The burglaries nearly all are "crimes of opportunity," Ramm said Wednesday, meaning most occur with unlocked cars or homes.
"Incline is really a great neighborhood; it was my first-ever duty and patrol (with WSCO)," Ramm said. "It's great, it's small - it's also unfortunate because it's become a situation where people are comfortable leaving their doors unlocked. Thieves know that, and they take advantage ... they don't have to work real hard."
Of particular interest to auto burglars, officials said, are cellphones, GPS units, iPads, laptops, cash, jewelry, guns, purses, wallets and medication, and aside from unlocked vehicles, thefts also occur in situations in which valuables are left out in the open inside a vehicle.
Considering criminals' general disregard for the state line, both Washoe and Placer sheriff's have been working together over the years on investigations, Ramm and Giovannini said.
The partnership paid off earlier this year, Ramm said, when officials from both, as well as the Truckee Police Department, worked together leading up to the March 22 arrest of 24-year-old Incline Village resident Matthew Stanaway, who was linked to 11 burglaries in the North Shore dating back to 2007. That investigation also led to the subsequent arrest of 30-year-old Jason Greene of Reno, who also was linked to many of those 11 incidents.
Still, the battle continues, Giovannini said. Within the past few months, for example, there has been a rash of vehicle burglaries in the area of Beaver Street in Kings Beach, he said, as well as on Regency Way and within the Kings Run condo complex in Tahoe Vista, off of Highway 267.
"Those Apple products are the big ones," he said. "iPads, laptops, that's what they're after - you can't even leave your iPhone out at a restaurant to use the bathroom - that thing will get taken."
Also, considering winter is approaching, Giovannini also warned locals to carefully store the winter sports gear, especially snowboards and skis that can be left overnight on top of a car. Tahoe/Truckee law enforcement have dealt with "hundreds" of these types of crimes over the past few winters, he said.
One other area people might not think about is trailheads, Giovannini said.
"It's not as big a deal now that winter is here, but when people go and park at trailheads ... burglars, they know you like to hide your wallets and phones and valuables in your car before a hike," he said.