Authorities are investigating a rash of burglaries reported across Calaveras County over a span of less than 24 hours earlier this week.
A total of six burglaries were reported to the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office from Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning, with most concentrated in the towns of Avery and Rail Road Flat, according to Sgt. Chris Hewitt,
"We got hit hard yesterday," Hewitt said Wednesday.
Sheriff's dispatchers first received an emergency call at 5:53 p.m. regarding a burglary at a home on Prussian Hill Road in Rail Road Flat. Another call came in at 8:13 p.m. because another home on the same road had been burglarized, according to Sheriff's dispatch reports.
Hewitt said the homes were on adjacent properties, and the only items he knew had been stolen were a four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle and a generator. He said deputies were still filling out investigative reports, but the two burglaries are believed to be related and committed by the same thief or group of thieves.
In the meantime, the Sheriff's Office received reports of several residential and commercial burglaries in Avery.
Someone broke into a garage and equipment shed at a residence on Moran Road around 7:30 p.m., but it was not known exactly what was taken as Sheriff's deputies were still following up with homeowners Wednesday, Hewitt said.
Also hit was Avery Middle School at 4545 Moran Road, where someone threw rocks through the main office window and stole cash and checks, according to Vallecito Union School District Superintendent Phyllis Parisi. The rest of the office was undisturbed, she said.
A custodian was the one who discovered the burglary and called the Sheriff's Office at 9:32 p.m., Parisi said. Sheriff's investigators were still working with school administration on a complete inventory of stolen items as of Wednesday, she said.
Another residence in Avery was burglarized sometime after 1 a.m. Wednesday but it went unreported until 7:32 a.m. The homeowner on Rancho Paradiso Road said someone broke into the garage and stole stereo-system components out of one of the vehicles in it.
In Murphys, owners of the Victoria Inn on Main Street arrived Wednesday morning to find someone snuck into the lobby during the night and stole a $700 laptop provided to guests for looking up directions or email, according to owner Michael Ninos.
Ninos said a guest heard the burglary occur around 10 p.m. but thought it was another guest or employee. The guest told Ninos he heard a loud noise downstairs followed by a car "with a bad muffler" speeding off down the street shortly after.
There were no signs of forced entry, and the door giving access to the guest rooms appeared to be untouched, but the incident has him contemplating installing a video surveillance system in the lobby.
"I've always felt it sent the wrong message, but this is obviously something I don't want repeated and there does seem to be a bit of stuff going on," Ninos said, adding it was the first theft-related incident at the inn since he began running it in 2000.
Hewitt said the rash of burglaries was "concerning" to the Sheriff's Office and it's not known if all or only some of them were connected.
"It would be purely speculation if I said they were but it's possible, because they all seemed to be occurring in specific areas at certain times," he said.
The incidents, Hewitt said, underscored the importance of local residents being vigilant and calling to report any suspicious activity they witness to the Sheriff's Office.
"You have to watch out for each other because, unfortunately, we can't be everywhere at once," he said. "We need the public to help be our eyes and ears when we're not around."
Hewitt said residents should call 911 if they witness a crime in progress, or the Sheriff's Office non-emergency line at 754-6500.