A handful of reported thefts stemming from meetups arranged online have Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies warning residents who are looking to sell online through popular social media sites like Facebook or online classifieds such as CraigsList.
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A Palmdale man looking to sell an expensive camera met a man he assumed was a Valencia resident in front of what he thought was the presumed buyer’s home on the 23500 block of Via Barra on Wednesday.
The suspect walked up on foot, telling the victim he was just finishing a jog around the neighborhood, according to Sheriff’s Station reports.
“I’m almost positive this suspect knew the house, and the area, and he knew he could easily take off with the item,” said Deputy Regina Yost of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station’s Crime Prevention Unit.
In addition to patrol, Yost reviews and analyzes crime reports for the Valencia zone, providing information Sheriff’s Station officials use to direct crime-fighting resources.
“We always want residents to be aware of crime trends we see, which is why we send out the Nixle reports, and we encourage people to sign up for them,” Yost said. “We hope by getting the word out, we can reduce crime as much as possible.”
Related article: SCV Deputies Try To Get Caution Out About Thefts
The suspect asked the victim if he could see the camera and show it to his father inside the house, because he was the one who was actually buying it.
“The minute they say, ‘I’ll be right back with the item,’ that’s the moment when you’ll never see the item again,” Yost said.
The suspect went around the side of the house to the backyard through a side gate, and the victim never saw the camera or the buyer again.
After about 10-15 minutes, the seller followed the path taken by the thief and noticed a pedestrian gate at the edge of the backyard leading to Wiley Canyon Road was open. Subsequent calls to an 818 cellphone number the buyer-thief was using weren’t returned.
Sheriff’s Station officials have not yet made an arrest on the incident, but officials believe that due to the similarities in the three thefts reported, the crimes could have been perpetrated by the same suspect, who’s using a disposable phone.
Yost offered several tips at those who might be trying to buy and sell online, whether they’re using an auction site, online classifieds or meeting people through Facebook.
“If you’re a person trying to sell this stuff, you’d want to meet your buyer in a public parking lot,” Yost said. “Come here to the Sheriff’s Station and meet them in the lobby.”
A meeting place that’s public and well-lit are both musts, she cautioned. If the location has video cameras nearby, then all the better.
“Someone can run off at any time,” Yost said, but at least that’s a little bit safer.
A seller should also always take down the serial number and photograph any item they’re selling, she added.
While there are numerous ways to re-sell stolen items, sheriff’s deputies might have an easier time tracking and returning stolen items if there is a specific record of the item.
And then there’s always the use of the buddy system, she said, which is always a good precaution.
“I always recommend to people, take an extra person with you,” Yost said.
But the victims need so to be wary of arranging to meet at someone’s house, she added.
“I wouldn’t advise anyone to let potential buyers take the item with them anywhere,” she said.
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Source: Santa Clarita News