MILIPITAS — A string of copper thefts that plagued the city of Milipitas in recent weeks resulted in the arrests of five suspects, police announced.
During the most recent incident, on Aug. 3, two police officers noticed three people leaving a fenced property in the 200 block of Sinclair Frontage Road just after 11 p.m. An ensuing investigation determined that the trio had allegedly stolen copper wire from the building.
Police arrested Stevonzi Chavez, 21, Tracey Lankford, 42, both of San Jose, and Kevin Ryan, 37, of Fremont. They were charged with burglary, conspiracy, possession of burglary tools, prowling and trespassing and booked into Santa Clara County jail.
Two weeks earlier, police responded to the 1300 block of California Circle around 5:30 p.m. July 20 after receiving a tip from a caller about an interrupted commercial burglary of copper wire.
According to the department, officers arrived on scene within minutes of the call and spotted a maroon 1989 Ford Ranger leaving the scene. Police followed the vehicle to a vacant building in the 44000 block of Kato Road in Fremont where they conducted a police stop.
Police say two men, 49-year-old Bradley Moore and 38-year-old Jason Lemus, both of San Jose, were the lone occupants of the vehicle, in which officers also located copper wire and cutting tools. Preliminary investigation revealed that one of the men had been spotted inside the California Circle building near several pieces of cut copper wire. Officials determined that the wire inside the suspects’ vehicle matched what had been taken from the business.
Moore and Lemus were taken into custody for burglary, possession of burglary tools, and conspiracy and booked into the Santa Clara County jail.
According to Lt. Sandy Holliday, the thefts are likely being committed by a ring of copper thieves who have been targeting buildings that appear vacant or are ready to be demolished.
“One of the three suspects [in the Aug. 3 burglary] had intended to burglarize another business,” Holliday said.
She added that the recent arrestees aren’t new to the criminal justice system, which means they will be kept off the streets for a little more time. “Many of them have an extensive criminal history, so they’re going to be staying in jail a little longer.”
Holliday commended patrol officers for their theft-prevention measures. She said the department is not having to rely solely on tips from community members in locating and arresting burglary suspects.
“The officers are doing a really good job with their patrol checks and are able to catch [the burglars] in the act,” she said.
Anyone with information on either case or other similar incidents is encouraged to contact the Milpitas Police Department at (408) 586-2400. Anonymous tips can be given by calling (408) 586-2500 or via the Milpitas Police Department website at www.ci.ca.gov/government/police/crime_tip.asp.