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Mobile home burglaries surprise residents

Neighbor watches suspect drive away in stolen truck
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
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Some residents of an Auburn neighborhood were startled last week by a string of burglaries and attempted thefts that included a neighbor watching another neighbor’s stolen pickup being driven away. Now, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office is planning to host a neighborhood watch meeting for residents of the Rock Creek Mobile Home Park off Highway 49 across from Regional Park in North Auburn. Eight reports of burglary or attempted burglary took place inside the park overnight Nov. 30 and into the morning Dec. 1, according to Placer Sheriff’s reports. Most of the reports listed minor thefts, including that of a white sweater but others included the loss of a $200 leaf blower. The California Highway Patrol also responded to the park last Wednesday morning when a male resident reported that his truck was stolen. The man reportedly left his white pickup in his driveway under the carport next to his home, according to Officer Dave Montijo with the highway patrol. Montijo said the man left his keys in the dashboard as usual when he parked the car the night before. At about 7:25 Wednesday morning, he was awake with lights on and talking to a neighbor on the phone. The neighbor then looked out her window and saw the man’s truck driving through her court. Her mobile home backs up to the highway and she ran to the back of her house to hear it speeding off down Highway 49 southbound, Montijo said. The pickup was found the next day abandoned near Garnet Way in The Greens in North Auburn, Montijo said, and returned to the owner. One resident also reported to deputies that her husband followed a man who appeared suspicious out of the park. Another said she spotted a man walking down her street with a blanket draped over him that she had seen on top of her car a few minutes earlier. When she went outside to check her car, the resident, whose name is withheld because she is the victim of a crime, first saw that a white sweater was missing. She later discovered her GPS system was taken from the glove compartment of her vehicle. “It was a little scary,” the resident said. “It’s not a normal thing around here.” The woman said she’s lived in the mobile home park for two years and has not felt unsafe or dealt with any break-ins or thefts before. “The fact that this was 7 in the morning when it was daylight – this guy had to be nuts,” the woman said. Shelia Lopez said she and her husband, Ben, were both awake at about 6:30 a.m. when they heard a “funny” noise outside. “It sounded like something was trying to start like when you try to start your car and the battery is dead,” Lopez said. The couple went outside and saw that someone had rummaged through her husband’s sport utility vehicle and taken paperwork from inside the vehicle’s glove compartment. Ben Lopez then decided to drive around the park to see if he would find someone suspicious. Shelia Lopez said her husband found a man sitting inside a pickup truck and asked him what he was doing. According to Shelia Lopez, the man told her husband that he was checking his GPS. When Ben Lopez told him that there was someone rummaging through cars in the park, the man told Lopez he wouldn’t want to be accused of that and left the park, Shelia Lopez said. Shelia Lopez said her husband followed the man out of the park and was trying to remember his license plate number. Because it was dark, Ben Lopez could only provide a vague description of the man and, according to a Placer Sheriff’s report, the license plate number he provided did not match a vehicle. Shelia Lopez said news of several burglaries or attempted burglaries is a “completely unnormal thing” for the North Auburn mobile home park. “We would never expect this to happen,” Shelia Lopez said. Barbara Heckenliable said she’s lived in the park for 25 years. She said last week she noticed that the door to her locked shed showed signs of an attempted break-in. She said her shed has two locks so she was lucky the thief or thieves didn’t break through both. “I’d say it’s a relatively safe place to live,” Heckenliable said. “The only problem we have here is we’re surrounded by the park.” She said that the atmosphere has changed during the quarter century she’s lived there. “I always lock my door, even when I’m home and I lock my car all the time,” Heckenliable said. “Twenty-five years ago, I didn’t even lock the car half the time.” Dena Erwin, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office, said locking doors is key to preventing random break-ins. She said currently community service officers are working with residents to schedule a neighborhood watch meeting. In the meantime, Heckenliable said she and other residents are always watching the streets for anyone who might look suspicious in their neighborhood, which she described as “very nice place to live.” “No doubt about it they’re looking at senior citizens because a lot of them think seniors can’t move and don’t have eyes and can’t hear,” Heckenliable said. “It’s not true. Seniors are pretty sharp so they better watch out.” Reach Jenifer Gee at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com.