Tue Jun 4, 2013 5:00 PM
Authorities arrested five people in connection with a string of car burglaries at several Valley trailheads.
James Bennett, 36, was arrested on suspicion of breaking into several cars parked near trailhead locations. Phoenix Police Department officials suspect Bennet was working with a team that would arrive at each parking location on bicycle. The team would target cars that were left unsecured, but also used screwdrivers to pry open doors and break into windows.
Their mission, police suspect, was to get in, get the property and get out, as soon as possible, said Officer James Holmes of the Phoenix Police Department. The thieves would quickly retrieve stolen credit cards and use them at local stores and ATMs.
Authorities were tipped off after several people called in reporting missing property, including multiple cases at Piestewa Peak. Many of these reported cases go back to mid-April.
Detectives from the Phoenix Police Department Neighborhood Enforcement Team worked with various local officials and executed three search warrants, finding more than 25 woman’s purses, receipts connected to stolen credit cards and several tools suspected of being used during the burglaries, including binoculars, gloves and walkie-talkies.
An undisclosed amount of marijuana and heroin also was found.
Stephen Ross was arrested after the rental car that he was driving was reported stolen. Police suspect Ross rented the car using one of the stolen credit cards and failed to return the vehicle.
Derek Byrski, Barbara Wells and Tina Billings were also being held under the suspicion of being co-conspirators working with Bennett.
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