Suspects in 30 car burglaries arrested in Visalia

FRESNO, Calif.

The burglaries happened in the Packwood Creek shopping center on south Mooney Boulevard in Visalia.

The burglaries were happening in crowded parking lots while people were inside shopping or eating dinner. Visalia Police say the suspects worked so fast, they were able to get in and steal a car in minutes.

Visalia Police say 18-year-old Ernan Medrano, 20-year-old Armando Mendez and 18-year-old Luis Ontiveros are responsible for roughly 30 car burglaries and thefts just in the last six weeks. All of the crimes happened in the parking lots at the Packwood Creek shopping center in south Visalia.

Sgt. Steve Phillips said, "They're actually pretty quick if you don't know what they were doing and you were a few cars down and not really even notice them stealing a car because they're very efficient at getting into the cars and stealing them."

A break in the case came Sunday night during a police sting in the parking lot of olive garden. Police say the three suspects had broken into a Yukon ... torn into the ignition and punched out the door lock ... as you can see in the police photos. They were nabbed after a brief chase. Officers say the men used the same method in their other crimes, sometimes stealing the cars outright, other times stealing items inside.

Sgt. Steve Phillips said, "Last night when they caught them they were attempting to steal a car what they would do with those vehicles they would then take the rims off maybe even take other parts off and sell them and make money that way."

Visalia resident, Janie Tarango said, "I think it's terrible they need to get out and work and do their own thing!"

Customers here at Packwood Creek shopping center were upset to hear of the burglaries.

"The bigger a place the more you're going to have that kind of stuff going on," adds Tarango.

Police are warning residents that when they're leaving their car in a parking lot to go shopping or eat dinner ... don't leave valuables out in plain sight and always lock your car. This is especially important as the holiday season approaches.

Police are still looking into whether anyone else was involved in these car burglaries. The suspects have been arrested in the past for auto theft.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.