Arrests made in park burglaries |

Arrests made in park burglaries

Andy Bourelle

More than half of the property stolen during the series of burglaries at the Industrial Park in Gardnerville has been recovered, and two arrests have been made in connection with the crimes.

Approximately $10,000 to $15,000 worth of computers, TVs, VCRs, tools and other items have been recovered by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Also, a stolen automobile connected with the crimes was recovered. The 1998 sport utility vehicle is valued at $22,000.

Mitchell Calvin Swift, 36, and Catherine Pickard, 48, both of the Gardnerville Ranchos, have been arrested for receiving stolen property and possession of stolen property.

The investigation is on-going, but 50 to 70 percent of the property from the Industrial Park has been recovered. Nationally, only about 5 percent of stolen property is ever recovered. Also, items were recovered from other residential burglaries investigators were able to connect with the park’s incidents.

DCSO Investigator Rick Brown, who spearheaded the investigation with investigator Keith Logan, said the progress on the case has been a coordinated effort, not only on the part of members of the sheriff’s office but also members of the community. The assistance of the Industrial Park’s tenants was instrumental, Brown said.

As a result of the string of burglaries, the Industrial Park Property Owners Association decided to offer a $2,000 reward for information that could lead to the arrest of the individuals responsible. Douglas County Secret Witness offered $1,000 on top of that.

“The thing that really broke this open was the rewards the Industrial Park Property Owners Association and Secret Witness offered,” said Brown. “We couldn’t have done it without their money, and we couldn’t have done it without the help of the community.”

Leads received from Douglas County Secret Witness allowed investigators to assemble the “pieces of the puzzle,” according to Sgt. Lance Modispacher.

“We depend on information from the streets,” Modispacher said. “There are so very few of us, and so many citizens. We rely heavily on responsible members of the community that want to keep this a nice place to live.”

The burglaries occurred between Nov. 22 and Dec. 4. Business owners reportedly had other earlier break-ins, but the emphasis on the investigation was facilitated by the break-ins around Thanksgiving. The sheriff’s office has recovered property for five of the six victims at the industrial park.

The members of the Industrial Park are happy to see progress in the investigation.

“I think it’s great,” said Mike Schiller, owner of Golden Nugget Automotive and treasurer of the Industrial Park Property Owners Association’s board. “The people of the industrial park really pooled together to make this happen. Collective action made this possible.”

Golden Nugget had been burglarized repeatedly. While his property has not yet been returned, Schiller said he went to the sheriff’s office, looked in the evidence locker and saw that most of his property was there.

Schiller said when news of the burglaries became common knowledge, his amount of business declined. Life at the park is returning to normal now.

“This will put some closure on it for a lot of people,” Schiller said. “Now that some arrests have been made and property has been recovered, I think things will return to business as usual.”

Swift and Pickard were arrested Dec. 12 at Gorman’s Ranchos shopping center. They were caught during an attempted sale of stolen property. Another man in their company was arrested at the time but released. Modispacher said the sheriff’s office does not believe he was aware the property was stolen, based on interviews later that evening.

Both Swift and Pickard are out on bail but are scheduled to appear in Justice Court in early January for preliminary hearings. Swift is required to appear Friday for two hearings, one for these alleged crimes and one for a Dec. 8 arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of burglary tools. Pickard is required to appear Jan. 7.

Modispacher and Brown said the motivation behind the string of burglaries was illegal drugs.

“They (the criminals involved) are selling it to get money for narcotics or trading it directly for narcotics,” said Modispacher. “When you’re talking about a group of lawbreakers stealing from hard- working people, trading or selling the property for drugs, that’s a major problem. The sheriff’s office won’t tolerate that kind of action.”

There is another group of people who won’t tolerate that kind of action – the members of the industrial park.

“We’re not going to tolerate any of this kind of stuff in the industrial park,” Schiller said. “The industrial park is a good place to do business. Our organization isn’t going to stand for it. The police department has done an excellent job, and I would like to personally thank them, but they can’t do it alone.”