Burglaries On The Rise

Valley criminals find easy targets in Payson


A number of burglaries around town have police scrambling and neighbors on alert.

Payson Police Lt. Don Engler said his department has had an increasing number of thefts and burglaries reported in recent weeks.


Payson police officers search a car with all the equipment for burglary, including modified tools, a police scanner and binoculars. "This is the third arrest we have made in the last two weeks of adult offenders who have burglary tools in their possession," Payson Police Lt. Don Engler said. "It appears we have burglars from the Phoenix area moving up and beginning to work our area."

Police are encouraging residents to be extra vigilant and call them if they see anything suspicious.

Kristy Sauder was nearly a victim of burglars about two weeks ago.

"My son and his friend were watching TV and saw the dome light in my car go on," Sauder said. "They chased the guy up to Rancho Road and lost him. The only description they could give was that he had a hooded sweatshirt on."

Shortly before spotting the burglar, the boys saw a red car driving by slowly. The next morning they found out that a neighbor's red Toyota RAV4 had been stolen that night.

Amber Vasquez said her home in the Payson Ranchos was broken into two weeks ago when she was out of town.

"The woman who takes care of my animals found the front and kitchen doors were left wide open," Vasquez said. "They took the TV, two DVD players, a computer -- but what I'm upset about is they took my engagement ring, wedding band and jewelry that belonged to my great-grandmother and my grandmother."

Engler said several cases are still under investigation, but they have made some arrests.

"(Tuesday morning) we arrested three juveniles who we feel are responsible for several of the vehicle break-ins around town," Engler said. "We don't feel they were tied to the vehicle theft or the home burglaries -- those are separate cases we are still investigating."

Engler said the juveniles, two 13-year-old boys and a 14-year-old boy, have been tied to vehicle burglaries and vandalism at the bus barn.

"They looked for vehicles that were unlocked or had a window down," Engler said. "They would take mainly small things. No high-dollar items were taken."

The boys were released to their parents until Gila County juvenile probation decides what to do with them.

Of more concern to police is the recent arrests of adult offenders, many from Phoenix, who have tools and equipment for burglarizing cars and homes.

"It appears we have burglars from the Phoenix area moving up and beginning to work our area," Engler said.

Payson police arrested two men Tuesday night who had several items in their vehicle commonly used for burglaries, Police Sgt. Rod Mamero said.

Robert Caruso, 34, of Payson, and Michael Moore, 30, of Peoria, had tools, binoculars, flashlights and a police scanner in their truck when they were stopped for having expired tags.

Officer Steve Sachak said Caruso had a suspended license and was arrested. During a search of the vehicle, Sachak found about 10 grams of methamphetamine packaged for sale, and several items of drug paraphernalia.

Det. John Huffman said the men had about $1,000 worth of meth in their possession.

A week prior, Jonathon Palermo, 20, of Phoenix, was arrested after officers found drugs and burglary tools in the stolen Acura Integra he was driving.

Engler reminds residents that burglars are opportunistic.

"The more difficult you can make it for a burglar, the better," Engler said. "Secure doors and windows and get some outdoor sensor lights that will alert you and neighbors if there is movement outside your home."

"My family has been in Payson for 60 years and this has never happened before," Vasquez said. "It's scary and the police are swamped. Part of the problem is that Payson's population is growing rapidly and we don't have enough police officers to deal with the increasing crime."

Since April, calls to dispatch have increased by nearly 20 percent, according to police administration statistics. The number of uniformed patrol officers has remained the same, often forcing them to work overtime in order to respond to the volume of calls.

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