HUNTINGTON BEACH – A string of car burglaries along Surf City’s celebrated beaches and near its landmark pier led to a surveillance operation and ultimately two arrests, according to police.
Nathan Pater, 32, of Huntington Beach, and Amber Marie Hintz, 27, of Garden Grove, were taken into custody near 6th Street and Pacific Coast Highway after police observed Pater breaking into and burglarizing a car while Hintz waited nearby as the alleged getaway driver.
Over the past three weeks, there were 16 reports of vehicle burglaries that had occurred in the city’s beach parking lots and along Pacific Coast Highway between 6th and Goldenwest streets.
All of the victims were surfers that had hidden their keys in the wheel-well or bumper of their cars or had left their keys in a backpack that they’d left on the beach while they went out in the water. The suspects then retrieved the keys to access the unsuspecting victims’ vehicles, stealing items such as wallets, credit cards, iPods and cell phones.
A resulting investigation formed on two fronts, with detectives tracking victims’ credit cards that were being fraudulently used by the suspects and then the surveillance operation. Police were able to identify Pater and Hintz as the users of the stolen credit cards and then observe them as they hunted for their next beach-going victim.
Police watched the suspects split up Friday morning, with Pater retrieving the key of a victim and entering their car while Hintz waited nearby in the getaway car.
Police confronted Pater in the act of rummaging through the vehicle’s console and arrested him without incident. Hintz was stopped nearby and also arrested without incident. Both face charges of attempted vehicle burglary, burglary and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Police encourage beach enthusiasts to properly secure their keys and their vehicles and to report any suspicious activity they may observe.