iPhone app finds vehicle burglary suspects

Car thefts increasing at Auburn State Recreation Area
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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An iPhone application helped law enforcement pinpoint the location of two suspects arrested on charges of stealing from a car at the Auburn State Recreation Area Sunday night. Local park rangers say there has been an increase of vehicle thefts at trailheads over the past few months, while local law enforcement says it is crucial for people to remove items of perceived or actual value before they leave their vehicles. “Since December we have been having car break-in issues,” said Scott Liske, supervising ranger for the Auburn State Recreation Area. “I think it is the combination of the mild winter, so people are out recreating throughout the winter, and the economy is a contributing factor. People are desperate.” On Sunday, one victim realized she had left her cell phone in a duffle bag that was taken after thieves smashed her window and tracked the phone through the Find iPhone application she had previously downloaded. Using another phone with the application she was able to see her phone make stops at Red Hawk Casino in El Dorado County and a shopping center in the Roseville or Orangevale area before ending up at a residence in Citrus Heights. Citrus Heights Police arrested two people inside the home when they found and recovered most of the stolen items inside. “I am an iPhone owner myself and I know that app is out there and I have been waiting for a victim of a car burglary to have that app and have the phone working,” Liske said. “It was very good luck on her part.” Liske said he knows there are similar applications available for people who own other types of smart phones, such as the Droid by Motorola. He said he is also hoping now that two suspects have been arrested the burglaries will stop. Dena Erwin, spokesperson for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, said there hasn’t been an increase recently in the amount of vehicle thefts reported, but over the past couple of years they have gone up substantially. “We have been seeing the last two years just an amazing amount. Granite Bay was getting hit really hard six months ago,” Erwin said. “People in Placer County have a certain sense of security and aren’t locking their doors all the time.” Erwin said people are reminded to lock their car doors and not leave items of value anywhere in their vehicles, including the trunk. Auburn Police Chief John Ruffcorn agreed that he hasn’t seen an increase in car thefts reported recently, but said people should take precautions at all times, especially in situations where thieves may know they will be away from their vehicles for an extended period of time. “Generally trailheads, parks where there are large events going on where they know everyone is at a centralized location and won’t be back for a set amount of time,” Ruffcorn said. Even something that isn’t valuable, like an empty duffle bag, may be intriguing to a thief, he said. While he hasn’t heard of the Find iPhone application, Ruffcorn said in the past the department has used cell phones to track criminals and find victims. “That is a tactic we have used before to find suspects and potential victims or missing persons,” Ruffcorn said. Reach Sara Seyydin at, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.