Many law enforcement agencies have been in South Lake Tahoe since the Caldor Fire began its push east toward the lake. They helped with evacuations after the orders were issued on Sunday and Monday, and since then they have patrolled the neighborhood looking for those who chose to stay in town for nefarious reasons.
Law enforcement agencies work 24/7 to keep the community safe while residents are away.
There have been several arrests this week of South Lake Tahoe residents caught looting during a mandatory evacuation order.
“Local criminals are taking advantage,” Lt. Cabral of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department of the situation. “They hid and did not evacuate.
On Friday, September 4, deputies from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office (SBCSO) worked with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department (SLTPD) as they contacted the driver of a vehicle with no valid reason to be in the community. In the car was a known criminal who was in possession of a loaded firearm. He was arrested and charged with being a criminal in possession of a firearm and ammunition, and with not leaving an evacuation area.
“Thank you to the Santa Barbara deputies and to all the outside organizations that help us,” Cabral said.
Also on Friday, one of the teams on patrol was alerted that a man had stolen a bicycle from a residence. The team responded quickly and located the subject, a 37-year-old man from South Lake Tahoe who had the bicycle along with various other items suspected of having been stolen. He was arrested for looting, possession of burglary tools, prowling, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a concealed dagger or dagger, and possession of stolen property.
Previously, SLTPD officers had located a suspicious vehicle hanging from a boat on a property in the Bonanza Avenue area that appeared to be out of place. Officers contacted a local resident who is on parole and in possession of burglary tools and fake firearms. He became aggressive with the officers and was quickly arrested. He was charged with modifying dummy firearms, possessing burglary tools, not leaving an evacuation area and violating his parole.
“We will continue our efforts day and night to catch those people who are taking advantage of this situation and victimizing our community,” Cabral said.
The SLTPD, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office (EDSO) and many law enforcement agencies across California are working tirelessly through smoke and fire to protect the community.
On Wednesday, September 2, SBCSO was at a security checkpoint in the Spruce Avenue and Heather Lake Avenue area when they saw a male subject near a house. When they tired to make contact, the man got into a vehicle and attempted to leave. The police stopped the vehicle and contacted the man. During their investigation, they discovered that the suspect, a 28-year-old mane from South Lake Tahoe, was looting the area. He was arrested for looting, possession of drug paraphernalia, failure to leave an evacuation area, tampering with a replica firearm to look like a real firearm, and false registration. They also recovered several items suspected of having been stolen.
Within minutes of this call, other SBCSO members found another man in the backyard of a residence on Herbert Avenue. He was also arrested for looting, burglary, possession of burglary tools and failing to leave an evacuation area.
“We express our gratitude to all the agencies that are helping in this difficult time,” said Cabral of Mutual Aid. “We couldn’t do it without your help.”
At the start of the blaze, EDSO deputies were patrolling the area evacuated by the Caldor fire from Randall Tract off Highway 50 near Kyburz, where they spotted a suspicious vehicle in the area. After contacting the occupants of the vehicle, EDSO K9 Toby walked around the vehicle and gave a positive alert indicating that he had detected controlled substances inside. A search of the vehicle revealed nearly three ounces of methamphetamine, a 9mm phantom pistol with more than 50 9mm rounds, a scale with empty bags and burglary tools. An occupant of the vehicle has been charged with several felonies including being a criminal in possession of a firearm / ammunition and possession of controlled substances for sale.
All those arrested must be transported to Placerville for reservation, as South Lake Tahoe Jail is closed due to evacuation.
There is no widespread looting in these evacuated areas, but there are burglary actions. Of the 17 calls on Thursday, 15 were found to be break-ins and two were humans.
“With no one in town, it gives them free rein,” Cabral said of the bears. “With the people around, they stay outside.”
Windows and doors are secured once human and animal break-ins are discovered, and Cabral said he has notified owners of those affected by the criminal element.
Cabral said the public will find a lot of trash to pick up once they repopulate in the community.