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A thief with an interesting bag of tricks

Suspect’s backpack contained burglary tools, ammunition

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POSTED December 4, 2013 12:03 a.m.

Thomas Christopher Chase was in possession of some interesting things when Manteca Police officers stopped him Monday night on suspicion on breaking into cars in the parking lot of the In-Shape Sports Club on E. Yosemite Avenue.

They found the 18-year-old – who had a pair of outstanding felony warrants – with burglary tools, but they also found backpack that contained a litany of items that included a box of handgun ammunition.

According to Manteca Police Sergeant Jodie Estarziau, Chase was one of two men on bicycles that were in the area when officers arrived. The other man fled, and the backpack that contained the bullets was found roughly 60 feet away from where Chase stopped at to talk to officers.

No gun was found, and Estarziau said she didn’t know whether the bullets were stolen. The receipt from their purchase was still in the bag.

“If somebody is missing ammunition we encourage them to contact the police department,” she said. “It’s easily identifiable, as are some of the other items that we recovered from the backpack.”

This isn’t the first time that officers have responded to a burglary call in the parking lot of the popular gym in recent weeks. According to Estarziau, the size of the parking lot and the duration of time that people spend inside makes it a prime target for people looking for an easy score, and people sometimes keep valuables in their vehicle believing that because they’re out of sight they won’t be discovered.

The Christmas season, she said, only magnifies the intensity of the burglaries and she encourages anybody who might use the facility to either bring their personal effects with them or leave them at home.

“Sometimes you have people that will sit in the parking lot and watch a woman tuck her purse under the seat, and then they’ll watch her go inside,” Estarziau said. “We try to make checks of the area, but we’re not always able to be there. And just because you cover it up doesn’t mean that they don’t know it’s there – you’re talking about people that know that a bunched up jacket or something like that is usually covering up something that they’re looking for.

“It’s best to take all of that with you – phone chargers, exposed cables, anything that would make you a target – because we do see a rise during this time of year.”

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