Unlocked cars make easy prey for ‘clouters’ | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Unlocked cars make easy prey for ‘clouters’

Bradley Foster

On Monday South Lake Tahoe Police arrested a 15-year-old boy, who they believe is one of a group of kids responsible for a rash of burglaries that began last December.

Since January there have been dozens of reports of what is sometimes called “car clouting,” when things are stolen from vehicles. The teen-ager allegedly told police that he broke into at least 30 cars. Investigators could only confirm 10 of the thefts.

Police made the arrest after finding property stolen over the weekend from three cars parked on Merced Avenue in a dumpster outside the suspect’s apartment building.

He was also arrested in January for possession of stolen property, most of which was reportedly taken from cars in the Al Tahoe area.

“It hasn’t slowed down at all,” Sgt. Tom Conner said. “You have this kid out there breaking into cars and he just gets a ticket. He doesn’t go to juvenile hall, he just goes home to dad.”

Conner hopes that the number of cars that are broken into will go down now that this suspect is in custody.

“They are the major cause out there at the moment – these two or three kids – especially in the Al Tahoe area,” he said, but warned that car clouting is a continuing problem.

“We get at least four or five each weekend, and some during the week,” he said. “A lot of them happen but are not being reported, so there are probably some we don’t know about.”

The vast majority of the people arrested for breaking into cars are between the ages of 16 to 20, according to Detective Tim Mazzoni of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department. Several teen-agers were arrested in the Tahoe Basin by Sheriff’s deputies last year and dozens of cars were burglarized.

“Most of them just walk the street quietly late at night looking for whatever valuables they can find,” he said. “They usually go into unlocked vehicles because it is so easy. There are so many that they don’t have to bother with breaking windows.”

Thieves target almost anything left in cars. Money, electronic equipment, and cellular phones are the most popular items but compact discs, sunglasses, and purses also disappear frequently.

“Some kids are looking for stuff to take,” Conner said. “Others just see the opportunity open to them, and say ‘Wow! Look at that.'”

Both Conner and Mazzoni said that if victims were careful many of these thefts could be avoided.

“It is amazing how many people leave their cars unlocked,” Conner said. “All this stuff is done in secrecy and if the area is well-lighted and the car doors are locked it makes it more difficult for them.”

Mazzoni agreed.

“If you have not been a victim yet, there is a good chance that you will be in the future if you don’t take the proper precautions,” he said.

There are several ways to protect your car from burglars, according to the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.

“Most of these crimes are crimes of opportunity and if you take away the opportunity you lessen the chance that you will become a victim,” Sgt. Tom Conner said.

He suggested that people:

– Lock their car doors.

– Do not leave valuables inside their cars.

– Leave outside lights on, or install motion detectors.

– Park their cars inside a garage if possible.

– Install an alarm, which will deter many thieves.

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