Earlier this year the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office adopted a hardline stance against copper wire thefts in the county – dedicating the Community Revitalization Unit deputies to try and stop the costly and potentially dangerous practice.
And they’re making headway.
This week the agency announced that they had arrested three people who are believed to be behind thefts of AT&T copper wire cables after CRU deputies were able to build a lead on a potential suspect and track them down.
Francisco Mendez of Stockton was stopped by deputies and found to be in possession of stolen AT&T copper wiring in the back of his vehicle. Mendez had a felony warrant for auto theft and had been released on his own recognizance for that charge when he was stopped again with the stolen wire.
Deputies then obtained a search warrant for his residence where they found additional stolen wiring, drug paraphernalia, weapons, and burglary tools – booking him into the San Joaquin County Jail on a variety of felony charges.
Two additional accomplices – Delbra Smith and Jesus Garcia-Altamarino – were also arrested during the investigation into Mendez’ activities.
It was the second time in as many months that the sheriff’s office have busted people believed to be behind the costly thefts. Last month the agency arrested two men from Stockton that had cut 49 lengths of 400-pair copper cable wires and staged in a San Joaquin County vineyard to come and pick up later.
The dense wires contain 400 pairs of individual wires that, if the cable is cut, would need to be individually spliced back together in order to restore communication service – if the cables were being used by companies like AT&T.
And which cables thieves choose to target can have a major impact on the entire community.
Last month in Amador County thieves cut an AT&T wire that connected to the county’s 911 dispatch center – forcing all calls to be routed through nearby Calaveras County with dispatchers then emailing the information back to Amador County.
The same thing has happened in San Joaquin County as well -
At a press conference earlier this year called by local officials and representatives from AT&T, San Joaquin County Supervisor Steve Ding said that the county actually leads the nature in copper wire thefts – something that they were hoping to stem moving forward.
Collaboration between the sheriff’s office, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, and other law enforcement agencies through the county would be paramount to solving the crisis – potentially looking, Sheriff Pat Withrow said in that press conference, into recycling centers that may be buying the stolen wires and creating the market that allows thieves to cash in.
Until next year, AT&T will be providing a reward of up to $5,000 for specific information about the theft of copper wire in San Joaquin County and the sale of it after the fact. Tipsters have until May 1, 2024 to provide that information by calling 1.800.807.4205.
To contact Bulletin reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.