Neighbors help Modesto cops nab burglary suspects

Alert neighbors helped lead Modesto police to two burglary suspects, who then led officers on a short chase that ended after their car crashed in an orchard near Salida, police said.

Officers captured one suspect and recovered stolen items. The second suspect got away.

The suspects' Chrysler Cirrus crashed near North Hart and Bacon roads, north of Beckwith Road and west of Highway 99, police said. Officers arrested a Lathrop woman driving the car, but a man in the car's front passenger seat evaded capture.

Police arrested Esmeralda Gomez, 26, on suspicion of burglary, possession of stolen property and conspiracy, police said. She was being held in lieu of $15,000 bail at the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center on Wednesday night.

About 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, a woman called police to report that her husband's truck was being burglarized, said Sgt. Craig Gundlach, a Modesto police spokesman. The caller's neighbor had alerted her and her husband of the burglary occurring in the 2200 block of Manitoba Court, just west of Prescott Road and north of Standiford Avenue.

The caller told police that her husband and her neighbor were driving through the neighborhood looking for the thieves.

As officers responded, the husband called police to report that they had spotted the Chrysler heading west on Standiford and approaching the overpass at Highway 99, Gundlach said.

Police caught up with the Chrysler on Bacon and tried to pull it over. The car took off, then made a quick turn into the orchard near North Hart, where it crashed into a tree.

Gomez and the passenger ran, Gundlach said, but a police dog found Gomez hiding in the trees. Officers searched in vain for the man for more than an hour.

During the search, police received a second vehicle burglary report, this one in the 2400 block of Summerlin Drive, just south of Pelandale Avenue and a few blocks from the other break-in.

Officers searched the crashed vehicle in the orchard and found a stereo and speakers from the burglary on Manitoba and a DVD player from the vehicle on Summerlin, Gundlach said.

Sgt. Doug Ridenour, who oversees the department's Property Crimes Unit, said the arrest and the retrieval of the stolen items were the result of residents and police working together.

"These neighbors knew each other well enough that they could call in the middle of the night to let each other know about something suspicious, and they worked with our officers to catch the criminals," Ridenour said in a prepared statement.

Modesto police ask anyone with information about these burglaries or the passenger's identity to call CrimeStoppers at 521-4636. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.