By Jake Lee Green
Kern Valley Sun
Quite a few shops in the Kern River Valley have been experiencing an increase in brazen theft from their properties recently. L and M Lumber has been experiencing the thievery for months now with increases in the extent of the theft. Last Friday, March 20, the fence to the L and M Lumber yard was cut in order to gain access to several pieces of merchandise and cable.
While looting, the thief noticed a vehicle of one of the workers had been parked within the property inside the fence and proceeded to steal the employee’s car by cutting the padlock to the gate and driving it out. The vehicle has since been found, but there are no suspects named in the theft as of this time. In addition to the car; chainsaws, wiring, and varying other items of significant value have been taken from their property in a similar fashion. L and M is offering a $200 reward leading to the arrest of the culprit.
Recently, Steve Spradlin, owner and operator of several business in the Kern River Valley, has also expressed concern and frustration over similar thefts from his True Value property in Lake Isabella. Even though Spradlin has been dealing with break ins for months leading into years, he states the last few weeks have been some of the worse with outside storage sheds at the True Value being broken into two to three times a week. Attempts from thieves to kick in doors to the main store, stolen building materials, and stolen bags of a very particular soil brand are some of the most noticeable in damage and theft.
In the past, Spradlin has experienced thefts from the Mountain Mesa Shell Station he operates. In which, the thieves have broken out the glass of the main doors at the store to gain access to liquor, cigarettes, food, and various other petty items. In his opinion, Spradlin doesn’t see how cite and release techniques are benefitting himself or any of the other businesses in Lake Isabella or the KRV at large. He even goes as far to say that reports are not being made or are simply being shelved because they are not violent crimes.
One thing is for sure, Spradlin isn’t going to be taking many chances with his business locations and says he will be installing steel roll-top doors at a few locations to ensure his products remain safe. In the last few weeks he has noticed an increase in theft from his True Value location, although it is unclear whether or not the thieves are purposefully using the Kern County Sheriff’s Office COVID-19 contact protocols to their benefit. Owner and operator of Outdoor Supply Inc., Lucian Whitman, recently experienced a similar break-in over the weekend when an employee of the Outdoor Supply discovered a padlock on an outside fence had been cut. At the time nothing appeared to be stolen. However, early in the morning on March 23, employees of the print department, located within the Outdoor Supply building, discovered the office had been ransacked, doors kicked in, and items stolen.
The suspect had come back and cut a hole in the fence and disabled three of the cameras this time, but escaped before Kern County Sheriff’s from the Kern River Valley Substation could catch him. Fortunately, Whitman was able to capture the acts of vandalism and theft on remaining cameras. The suspect left behind bolt cutters, a bandana, and a headlamp. Whitman has since asked the public for their help in identifying and locating the man captured on camera. In every case of theft along Lake Isabella Blvd. it appears as if the suspect knew what they were looking for and how to access it.
Each case has mimicked the behavior of the suspects in other thefts including break ins at storage units in the area. The suspect uses bolt cutters to create holes in the fences along the properties to access the materials sought after. The holes are large enough to carry the materials through. Please contact the Kern County Sheriff’s Office at (760) 549-2100 if you have any details concerning the thefts.