Teen arrested in string of auto burglaries

Alisa Boswell

A 14-year-old girl from Portales was arrested by Eastern New Mexico University police on Oct. 7 after police say she was caught on campus surveillance videos burglarizing cars.

ENMU Chief of Police Brad Mauldin said a string of auto burglaries began on campus shortly before the video system was installed in August of this year.

At 3:45 p.m. on Oct. 3, another auto burglary was reported at the Campus Union Building where campus police had two surveillance cameras posted.

Mauldin said the manner in which the auto burglary took place followed the same trend of previous auto burglaries on campus.

“Burglars individually or in teams will go through a parking lot or residential area checking car doors for unlocked vehicles and/or those with their windows rolled down,” Mauldin said. ”It’s very seldom force is used to enter these vehicles. The burglar will then enter the vehicle and remove whatever items are immediately available.”

After viewing the Oct. 3 surveillance tape, officers were able to identify the suspect and place her under arrest.

The girl admitted to committing multiple auto burglaries on campus with help from accomplices.

Mauldin said additional charges, if any, are pending, but the arrests of three adults and another juvenile, who have been implicated in the string of auto burglaries, are expected.

Mauldin would not release detailed information about the charges at this time, but said they are at felony level.

Mauldin said local law enforcement agencies have coordinated their efforts to stop the new trend of auto burglaries, which have been nicknamed car hopping, car jumping and door fishing.

Mauldin said the thefts can take place within seconds and that area residents should not make assumptions based on time frame or on an individual’s appearance but on an individual’s behavior instead.

“I would ask people to please help your local law enforcement by reporting any and all suspicious activity,” Mauldin said. “These suspects are very good at blending into their environment.”

Mauldin said many of the burglaries on campus have occurred in populated parking lots between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“One of the greatest protections against opportunistic theft is making sure that your vehicle is locked with the windows completely rolled up and valuables of any kind secured out of plain sight,” Mauldin said, giving similar advice to that of Portales Police Department Deputy Chief Lonnie Berry on Monday afternoon.

Mauldin said Detective Gary Ford Jr. of the ENMU Police Department and Sgt. Kane Wyatt of the Portales Police Department have been instrumental in solving the auto burglaries with Wyatt having worked closely with the ENMU Police Department, coordinating information connected to criminal activity and having helped in the string burglaries at 801 military housing on Oct. 4.

According to Berry, the Portales Police Department currently has a suspect on the 801 housing auto burglaries and officials hope to make an arrest within the next week.

“We still need to follow up on some of the things that were peripheral to that,” Berry said. “We want to make sure we get everyone involved with everything that happened. There are some loose ends to put together before we make the arrest, because once you make the arrest, that makes it more difficult.”

Both Berry and Mauldin said further information on suspects will be given at a later date.