Detectives caught a suspected vehicle burglar Thursday morning while setting up surveillance at Vintage Faire Mall in response to a series of similar vehicle burglaries in the area over the past few weeks, a police spokesman said.
Felipe Hernandez, 27, of Stockton was arrested on suspicion of burglary, possession of stolen property, possession of marijuana and violating parole, said Modesto police Lt. Chris Fuzie.
There could be additional charges, Fuzie said, as the detectives determine whether Hernandez is linked to other recent vehicle burglaries in northwest Modesto.
Since mid-January, about 40 vehicles have been burglarized near Sisk Road between Briggsmore and Pelandale avenues.
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Fuzie said it appears about 20 of those burglaries were committed using the same method Hernandez was seen using when he was arrested Thursday. He declined to say what that method was.
"I'm not going to go into that now, because it will give other people an idea on how to (burglarize vehicles)," Fuzie said.
The detectives investigating the series of burglaries gathered information from witnesses, leads and the Modesto police crime analysis unit and used it to identify Hernandez as a suspect in the burglaries.
Caught in cafe parking lot
The detectives were setting up their surveillance about 8:45 a.m. when they spotted Hernandez in a car entering the mall parking lot, Fuzie said.
He said the detectives watched Hernandez as he "cased" the area before targeting a sport utility vehicle in the parking area of Mimi's Cafe near Dale Road.
Fuzie said that as Hernandez began to break into the SUV, the detectives moved in to arrest him.
Fuzie said Hernandez ran across Dale Road, but officers caught up to him in the Wendy's restaurant parking lot after a short chase.
The detectives searched Hernandez's car and found stolen items, Fuzie said.
Authorities searched Hernandez's home and found other items they believe were stolen.
The detectives were working to identify the stolen property and match it with burglary victims. Fuzie said most of the stolen items were stereo equipment, including amplifiers, and some were mobile entertainment devices such as iPods.
He said detectives believe Hernandez was helped by at least one person who drove him around as he targeted vehicles in other burglaries, but that he was alone when arrested Thursday.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.