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Arrests highlight vehicular crime

A suspected vehicle burglar, and a suspected car thief, are scheduled for preliminary hearings in two separate incidents that occurred on the same day.

Michael Thompson, 21, was arrested near the intersection of Austin Avenue and Sherwood Way after a stolen vehicle was located at his home, according to Madera Police Lt. Gino Chiaramonte. Police were first alerted to suspicious activity regarding the house, at 1226 Austin Ave., with the help of a tip from Neighborhood Watch.

“We have about 45 Neighborhood Watch groups associated within the city of Madera,” Chiaramonte said. “One of our Neighborhood Watch groups is in that area of Austin and Sherwood, and a few months back, they identified that residence as what they believed to be the cause of the majority of the crime in that area.”

Thompson was charged with possession of stolen property and vehicle theft, and for participating in a chop shop. In addition, two other suspects, Barry Velasco, 40, and Tommy Farrow, 44, were arrested on drug charges as they left the house. Another person reportedly connected to the home, Anthony-Azevedi Ybarra, 21, is also wanted for questioning by the Madera Police. In addition, a warrant for Ybarra’s arrest was issued on drug-related matters.

“That house is showing to be a total drug flophouse,” Chiaramonte said. “With the types of persons coming in and out, the criminal activity around it, with stolen vehicles, drug crimes, coming and going from there, and different people inside that residence who aren’t long-term residents.”

Later that evening, Madera police made another arrest, this time for a vehicle break-in.

Officers were dispatched to the 400 block of Stadium Road at 11:30 p.m. in response to a vehicle burglary in progress, according to Madera Police Sgt. Mark Trukki.

“A concerned citizen in the area was looking after her neighbors and reported that a man was trying to break into her neighbor’s car,” Trukki said.

When officers arrived, the suspect, Aikene Matias, 23, reportedly tried to flee, but was quickly tracked down and arrested for vehicle burglary.

These arrests have only served to highlight an escalating problem with vehicular break-ins and car thefts that have plagued Madera over the past year.

“We’re consistently having those crimes occur,” Chiaramonte said. “And they’re all over the city, not specific — they’re happening on Schnoor Avenue, they’re happening on the northeast side of town. It’s not one side of town that’s got the problem.”

Chiaramonte said there were 166 vehicle thefts in the first six months of 2016 alone. This is up from 130 vehicles stolen in the same time frame in 2015, which was up from 108 vehicle thefts in 2014. “Last year’s numbers were through the roof,” Chiaramonte said. “And we’re above that.”

At a video arraignment Tuesday, Matias was ordered to return to court for his preliminary hearing on Aug. 19 by Madera County Superior Court Judge Mitchell Rigby. Thompson’s was set for Aug. 22.


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