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Vandals break windshields on nine cars Monday morning

Victims report no thefts in apparent one-night vandalism spree
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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AAA NORTHERN CALIFORNIA TIPS TO AVOID CAR THEFT

• Use multiple layers of protection: locked doors, stickers stating the car is protected, a steering wheel lock and immobilizing devices like kill switches or tracking devices.

• Remove your keys from the ignition and take them with you.

• Always use your emergency brake when parking. This makes it more difficult for a thief to tow your vehicle away.

• Never leave your vehicle running, even if you’ll just be gone a minute.

• Park in a well-lit, populated area.

• Do not leave valuables in plain sight or in unattended vehicles. Even empty shopping bags, sunglasses or a change of clothes might look interesting to a thief.

• Do not leave the title inside your vehicle.

• Never hide a spare ignition key on the vehicle. Thieves look for keys in popular hiding places like inside a car bumper or wheel well.

• Contact your insurance company immediately after contacting the police to let them know your car is missing.

Police are investigating a rash of vandalism incidents in which at least nine Auburn residents had their windshields smashed by rocks between Sunday night and Monday morning.

Officer Michael Garlock of the Auburn Police Department said the incidents occurred between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in various neighborhoods throughout the city, including the 300 block of Nevada Street, the 90 block of Carolyn Street, the 100 block of Rancho Circle, the 100 block of Skyridge Drive, the 200 block of Sawyer Street, the 1000 block of High Street and the 100 block of Pleasant Avenue.

He said all victims reported finding their windshields broken with large rocks, but none reported that anything had been stolen. Garlock estimated the number of suspects involved was as little as two or as many as four or five, but no one could give a description of a culprit or a vehicle.

“It appears to be just random,” he said. “It left the impression that somebody went around together, drove here and broke out some windows, drove to a different part of the city, threw some more rocks at cars, went to a different part of the city, things like that.”

While this type of incident is not unheard of, Garlock said it does not appear to be part of any trend.

“Recently, this hasn’t been common. This is something that just came up,” he said. “Is it related to the fact that maybe some of the kids are out of school on spring break? Hard to say, because we obviously don’t know who it is … We are always looking for them, and hopefully we do (find them).”

To discourage vandals, Garlock recommends residents park their vehicles as close to their homes as possible, because cars parked on the street are easier targets.

“Obviously if they hear or see something like this, it would be helpful if somebody could get a make and model of the car, or at least a license plate,” he said.

Sgt. Mike Lyke of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office agreed that there hasn’t been a notable increase in car vandalism lately – his jurisdiction hasn’t seen an incident like these since March 9 – but the frequency of these incidents varies widely from one neighborhood to another. In any case, he said, vigilance is the best defense.

“The big thing is to report people, either to the police department if they’re in the city or to the sheriff’s office, if they see people loitering around. This happens usually later in the evenings, but if they see people wandering the neighborhood, it’s always good to call, and then the sheriff’s office or police department can drive by and see who’s in the area,” Lyke said. “If they’re up to no good and get contacted by us, they’re probably not going to hang around that neighborhood. They’re going to take off.”

Auburn resident Nancy Nebilak, whose Honda Accord was damaged outside her home on Skyridge Drive, said she went to bed around 9 p.m. Sunday and woke suddenly after hearing a loud noise, though she couldn’t recall what time. When her partner, Paul, went to his truck around 8 a.m. Monday, he noticed passers-by peering into Nancy’s car and quickly saw why.

The back windshield had been punctured and almost shattered, and the front windshield had several cracks in it. On the dashboard beneath the cracks in the front windshield was a rock, slightly bigger than a baseball, which had apparently come in through the back window and cracked the front window from the inside. Nebilak said police later told her the front windshield looked like it had been struck by a baseball bat as well.

She had just paid $1,650 for maintenance repairs on Friday, and she doesn’t think her insurance will cover the damages.

Another victim, Duane Purdue of Auburn, said he was up at 4 a.m. when he discovered his Ford Explorer had been vandalized.

“About 4 a.m. I heard the police department out front, and I went out to see what was going on and found out it was my vehicle,” he said. “Somebody had thrown a rock through the rear window.”

Purdue said the rock destroyed the rear window and damaged some of the interior, and it looked like someone had tried to pry open the driver’s side front door.

Purdue worries the incident will impact his business, Sierra Investigative Services, which has already suffered the influence of a flagging economy. Unable to afford a new windshield, he said he has personally absorbed certain costs to help his clients in the past but can no longer afford to do that.

“That’s something that I extend to people in need, and I’m not able to do that if I have to come up with a $500 deductible or something else,” Purdue said. “Then I can’t do things for other people that I’d like to do.”

Expecting to use public transportation until he can save enough to undo the damage, Purdue said this kind of prank is far from harmless.

“It’s a major problem to some people who are just getting by or scrimping or trying to make ends meet, and then they fall victim to a prank like this. It doesn’t just disrupt their finances, but it can devastate them. If I could turn this over to the insurance company and have them pay for it all, well that would be one thing, but that’s not something I can do,” he said. “The insurance company wants their deductible, and because somebody did something they thought was funny, it’s going to be a very costly thing to me, and possibly other people who fell victim to the same prank.”