A series of well-executed commercial burglaries in San Luis Obispo has police investigating whether the crimes are related.
In the early morning hours of July 12, officers responded to a suspected burglary at Jim’s Campus Camera on the 700 block of Higuera Street in the heart of downtown SLO.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- HOLE IN THE WALL: Burglars likely used a skill saw to cut a gaping hole in the back door of Jim’s Campus Camera in downtown SLO, making off with a reported $20,000 worth of merchandise.
In a press release, the police department reported that thieves got away with about $20,000 worth of camera equipment, mostly Canon-brand digital cameras, camera bodies, and lenses.
Jim’s has so far been mum on the burglary; calls to the business were referred to a manager who wasn’t available for comment as of press time. However, sources familiar with the situation have told New Times that the perpetrators’ MO mirrored at least two other unsolved burglaries since January.
On Jan. 25, burglars hit the Photo Shop on the 1000 block of Marsh Street. Peggy Mesler, the business’s owner, told New Times the perpetrators somehow cut a hole through the back doors, which was large enough for someone to enter and not trigger the alarm.
Mesler said the suspects seemed to “take their time” while inside, carefully removing Canon camera equipment from the display cases, as well as the corresponding empty packaging in the back room. She said they took approximately $30,000 in goods.
At about 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 1, a manager at Skate Warehouse in the 3500 block of South Higuera arrived to work and saw flashlights and heard rustling inside. Though he didn’t actually see any suspects, robbers had apparently exited the store and fled through a chain link fence that had been cut open by the time officers arrived.
Police later disclosed that the suspects had entered the building by cutting a hole through a large, metal roll-up door. Video surveillance later showed a white van arriving and departing prior to the manager’s call for help. The burglars made off with a “large amount” of skateboarding shoes. Skate Warehouse’s management declined to disclose how much inventory was stolen.
Investigators at the time said they believed the suspects were linked to an organized crime group out of Southern California.
“These are definitely a little more sophisticated than the typical burglaries we see, such as a ‘smash and grab,’” SLO Lt. Keith Storton told New Times, adding that the crimes are still under investigation.
While he noted the obvious similarities in each incident, Storton couldn’t confirm whether the department considers them linked at this point.
Officials are urging local business owners and employees to be vigilant, ensuring their properties are adequately secured at night. They are also encouraging members of the public to report any suspicious activity near businesses—especially in the late evening and early morning hours—by calling the department or leaving an anonymous tip at Crime Stoppers.