When a Lodi resident learned that his company truck had been burglarized, he went to work finding those responsible and recovering his property.
Anthony Beltran, an employee of Schrader Mechanical, woke up Saturday morning to find the passenger-side windows to his work truck broken and several hundred dollars worth of tools removed in front of his home in the 900 block of Rutledge Drive.
Beltran tried to file a police report Saturday, but was told he would not be able to do so until Monday.
He decided to post his ordeal on social media, where someone encouraged him to start searching the Craigslist and Offer Up sites to see if his tools were being sold.
“I started scrolling through Offer Up, and couldn’t find anything at first,” Beltran said Monday. “But I kept scrolling, and finally spotted some of my tools for sale. I knew they were my tools because I put the letter ‘A’ on all of them, and these had the letter.”
One of the posts Beltran found included a photo of his Milwaukee drill set on the front seat of a vehicle being sold by a woman named Dorian. Beltran decided to search more of her posts, and found another with a picture of his tools resting on the dashboard of a Hyundai, he said.
After further investigation, Beltran found the woman was selling the Hyundai and a Honda. The ad for the second car showed the vehicle parked in an area of town Beltran was familiar with: Hale Park.
“So I drive over to Hale Park, and I see the car parked on the street there,” he said. “I took down the license plate and went back to the police department, showed them the plate and the Offer Up ads.”
Lodi Police Department officers and Beltran then contacted the woman to set up a ‘fake buy’ to recover the stolen property. Beltran said he first inquired about his drill guns, but was told they had been sold to another party.
Fortunately, the remaining tools had not been sold, so he made a deal to buy them. Beltran agreed to meet the woman in a business parking lot in the 200 block of East Lodi Avenue on Sunday.
He said officers waited outside the woman’s home near Hale Park and followed her to the meeting place. As soon as the woman pulled into the parking lot, she and her companion were detained, Beltran said.
“It’s a good feeling,” Beltran said of his ability to track down and recover his tools. “I hope they get in a lot of trouble for what they’ve done and not just get a slap on the wrist.”
Beltran recovered the majority of tools, except for the Milwaukee drills and a flashlight.
Officers arrested 26-year-old Jose Avalos of Stockton and 20-year-old Dorian Bautista-Alvarez of Lodi on suspicion of possession of stolen property and criminal conspiracy.
Police said the couple also brought their six-month-old child to the meeting place, and were charged with suspicion of child endangerment as well.
Avalos was charged with an additional possession of heroin for sale after officers found some on him during a search, police said. Both were booked into Lodi City Jail.
Sgt. Fernando Martinez said it is not unusual for residents to take initiative and try to recover their stolen property.
“It happens pretty often,” he said. “Because our staffing levels are low at times, we may only have four officers working on a certain day. We sometimes don’t have the opportunity to follow up on some reports as we’d like.”
While the department commended Beltran for his commitment to find those responsible, Martinez said residents should not be encouraged to try and take matters into their own hands and put themselves in danger.
Beltran said he probably won’t be parking his company truck at home anymore.
“I live five minutes way from the office, so I think I’ll just leave the truck at work and drive there with my own car from now on,” he said.