Crime

Suspect arrested in string of car thefts in SLO County

Police search for suspect responsible...

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - UPDATE

Authorities located a stolen car in the 200 block of Whiteley Street in Arroyo Grance on July 25. They believed 37-year-old Zachary Hamlin, the man wanted for a string of car thefts in San Luis Obispo County, was staying at a home in the area.

The San Luis Obispo Police Department said Hamlin was seen entering the stolen car but when he spotted officers, he fled on foot and was located hiding nearby behind a parked car. Hamlin was arrested and booked Tuesday afternoon.

Hamlin is facing 15 charges of felony auto theft, possession of burglary tools and violation of probation.

He is being held on $100,000 bail.

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Original Story

Investigators are offering a $1,000 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of Zachary Hamlin, 37, who police say is involved in a number of vehicle thefts in the San Luis Obispo County area.

Various law enforcement agencies that include the California Highway Patrol, San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Pismo Beach police departments, have taken 40 stolen vehicle reports since the beginning of July 2017--a number they say is unusually high.

Authorities identified Hamlin as the suspect allegedly responsible for several of the stolen cars and are actively searching for him. There is a warrant out for Hamlin's arrest due to violation of his probation stemming from a conviction in an unrelated stolen car case.

The majority of the vehicles stolen are Honda Civic and Accords from the late 1990's to the early 2000's.

Anyone with information on Hamlin's whereabouts is asked to call the San Luis Obispo Police Department at 805-781-7312 or your local police department.

John Reeves of Reeves Auto Repair in San Luis Obispo has been a mechanic for 20 years. He said he used to change a lot of ignition switches on Honda Accords when he was younger.

"It was two screws to pull the steering column apart and two screws to get the ignition switch out of the back and you were done. It was a pretty quick job to do and you know if you were looking at that from a more sinister way - you could get into the car especially if the window's down you can get in the car, start it and drive away," Reeves explained. 

He said he's not surprised to hear about the vehicle thefts. Late 90’s to early 2000’s Honda Civics and Accords have always been big targets.

"I think historically they've been a more commonly stolen vehicle because the fact there are so many of them out there and that makes them an easy target for one thing and it also makes the demand for used parts being stolen from the scrap vehicles more available," Reeves said. 

So how easy is it to find one of these cars in San Luis Obispo? It took us only going to one parking lot to find an older Honda Accord with a window open and a woman's purse in the front seat.

Reeves recommends following SLO PD's Lock it or Lose it campaign. 

"Always lock your cars up, keep them in your driveway if you can, turn your porch lights on or park them under a streetlight if you can - whatever you can do to make that car more visible and make anything suspicious happening to that car more visible as well to your neighbors and friends," said Reeves. 


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