Following a round of burglaries at his University Heights apartment complex, Andy Boyd (a Reader employee) was able to recover his stolen computer and tablet, along with his neighbor’s stolen car. Still, thousands of dollars’ worth of other heisted loot seems to have slipped through the fingers of the police officers whom Boyd led right to the perpetrators.
Boyd spent a Saturday night in mid-December with his girlfriend before returning home to minor chaos. “I come home on Sunday morning, and there’s a police officer out front, so immediately things are a little weird. As soon as I walked into my place I saw drawers, closet doors open, and it was, like, Okay, someone’s broken in here,” Boyd explains. “So I go down and ask an Officer Mendoza, who’s taking a report at my neighbor’s, if there’s been a burglary — yeah? Well I’ve got another one for you.”
It’s believed that the break-ins were of the “hot prowl” type, a particularly aggressive crime meaning thieves entered knowing or believing that the occupants of the apartments were home.
“They didn’t go into the bedrooms — I know because my safe was untouched,” Boyd continued. “My neighbors were home when their place got burgled, but they didn’t get woken up.”
The total haul from Boyd’s unit included an iPad, a work-issued laptop, several motorcycle and car keys, and about $6000 worth of high-end camera gear. His neighbor also lost a laptop and some car keys, but in this case the keys were used to locate and steal the neighbor’s car.
A copy of the incident report provided by Boyd instructs the responding officer to attempt to obtain fingerprints, or explain why an attempt was not made. Likewise, the officer is instructed to survey the scene for evidence or explain why an investigation wasn’t performed. Both tasks had an “N” ticked inquiring whether they were completed, with no further comments. A later comment section in the report notes that Boyd had activated tracking software on his Apple devices and would contact police if and when he got a location on his missing gear.
It didn’t take long for that to happen.
“About 10:00 that night, I got a notification on my phone that my MacBook’s been powered on, and there’s a GPS location,” Boyd continues. “So I check out where it is — if it had been in Mexico or Carlsbad I wouldn’t have bothered, but this is a hotel a half-mile away. That was enough for me to want to go check it out.”
The GPS image Boyd shares is remarkably specific, down to the corner and even floor elevation — room 351 of the Quality Suites near the west end of Mission Valley’s Hotel Circle.
Upon arrival, hotel staff were unable to provide Boyd with any information on the room’s occupants, so he vowed to return with police in the morning. On the way out of the lot, however, he spied a car that looked convincingly like the one that had just been stolen from his neighbor. On a hunch, he made a phone call to the neighbor.
“He goes down there, finds the car, so we’ve got that back. We call AAA and they show up, the police show up, we get some paperwork done to signify this is no longer a stolen vehicle,” Boyd says. “But the burglars still have the keys, so we can’t just park it where it was — the burglars can just come back and steal the car again. Instead we’ve got to stash it a couple blocks away, but now he’s going to have to have his car completely re-keyed — they also got my car keys and two of my motorcycle keys, so that’s going to be really annoying.”
First thing Monday morning, Boyd was back on the case.
“I’m up early and calling police dispatch in the Western Division, where a detective has my case. He’s not in yet, so I ask them if it would be a dumb idea to go back down there myself.
Yes, it would be, they told Boyd.
“My experience with police and stolen stuff is that they don’t really care: once it’s stolen, it’s gone,” Boyd laments. Statistics bear out his theory, with 3.41 burglaries per 1000 San Diegans reported in 2016, but the national arrest rate is just 0.64 per 1000 for this crime type. “That was sort of the vibe I got from the detective once he comes in on Monday morning; the case is on his desk but he hasn’t really gotten a chance to look at it yet. I reach him the second he walks in the office and tell him here’s the deal — I know where these guys are, I’m going down there.
“He tells me, ‘No, don’t do that,’ but I tell him I’m going down anyway, you might want to meet me there. So he goes down and meets me, but it’s almost like he didn’t expect to see me there waiting in the lobby when he and his partner show up.”
Even after successfully arranging a meeting with his detective, dumb luck may have played the biggest role in Boyd making a partial recovery of his property.
“We’re talking in the lobby and not even 30 seconds later three guys walk by, one of them wearing a backpack they took from me. The detective and his partner follow them out, detain all three of them, and search their stuff. My backpack had my iPad in it, my laptop, another laptop that we didn’t identify, and in his pocket were my neighbor’s car keys.
“The guy with all this stuff on him was arrested for possession of stolen property; the other two guys just got let go. The police went up to the hotel room and knocked on the door. There was somebody there but they didn’t go in. There’s no doubt in my mind the rest of my stuff was in that hotel room. I don’t know what probable cause is, but I’d think a guy coming out of that room with half my stuff ought to count.”
A police media services officer informed the Reader that because an arrest had been made the department would be unable to comment on specifics of the case. An initial offer to provide a broader interview discussing investigative procedures and establishment of probable cause never materialized.
Returning to the initial police report prepared at the scene of the crime, it concludes: “Evidence: None. Injuries: None. Property Damage: None. Follow-up: None.”
“I felt the whole time like I was kind of dragging the police along behind me, going ‘Come on, can we please maybe try to catch these guys?’”