A spike in battery thefts from vehicles, especially parked RVs, has been reported by - from Feb. 1 through March 21, a total of 31 batteries were stolen in the area. On Wednesday, five suspects were arrested in connection with the string of thefts.
The batteries were being taken from a variety of vehicles, including commercial trucks, golf carts, and motor homes and were sold for scrap metal at local recyclers.
According to an email circulated by City Hall, the investigation has revealed that the recycling centers are not demanding identification as they are required to do. "They have been warned. Sheriffs hope to work with them on this crime in the same way the issue is being addressed."
The Santee Station's Community Policing Unit (C.O.P.P.S.) and Area Investigative Unit analyzed characteristics of the thefts and identified likely suspects. According to the Sheriff's Department, on March 21, the Santee C.O.P.P.S. Unit began visual surveillance on a suspect who lives in the Santee area. At the same time, patrol deputies received a radio call of a theft of two batteries from a motor home in the 9500 block of Nicole Way, Santee.
A witness described the suspects, their car and license plate which came back to a residence on Beechtree St. in El Cajon. The Sheriff's Dept. began surveillance on the location while additional deputies checked local recyclers for the suspect
An El Cajon recycler revealed the suspects just left the business after selling the stolen batteries. All three suspects were arrested minutes later when they returned to the Beechtree address.
While this was occurring, the COPPS deputies stopped a car with other suspects from previous battery thefts. In all, five suspects were taken into custody for a variety of charges: Brandon Scott Elder, 25, from Lakeside, Daniel Wesley Stevenson, 23, from Lakeside, Brooke Ashley Winter, 21, from El Cajon, Brian Patrick Shay, 18, from Santee, Jacob William Lippert, 18, from La Mesa.
The Sheriff's Dept. encourages the public to keep their vehicles secured and minimize the potential for theft in light of these thefts.