FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA

By February 01, 2014

FAIRFIELD —

The surveillance videos show a man, carrying two big black duffel bags, get into a silver Toyota Corolla and speed away from a Fairfield home burglarized last Thursday. Two days later, Shoreline Circle neighbors saw the same car going down the street – a realization they credit to social networks used to share videos of the man and car. Eric Castleman, 38, an electrical contractor whose home was burglarized in the Thursday break-in, said the driver noticed the neighbors were interested in the Corolla, which was missing two hub caps and had front-end damage. “When he saw us,” Castleman said, “he kind of took off.” Castleman ran to his house and got into his truck. Mike Miller, the Neighborhood Watch block captain, was closer to the Corolla and followed the silver car to get the license plate. “I take it personal when people come to my neighborhood and rob the working man,” said Miller, who said he saw the fleeing vehicle blow through two stop signs. At Dover Avenue, about three miles away, Castleman forced the driver of the Corolla, who had slowed to about 5 mph, to pull over. “He said, ‘I got my daughters in my car. I’m scared,’ ” Castleman recounted of the man’s remarks. Castleman told the driver that the silver Corolla with missing hub caps and a damaged front was on the surveillance videos of the burglary. “You must have the wrong guy,” the driver said. Police, called by Castleman and Miller, pulled up and later arrested the driver, Kortney Jerome Avent, 22, of Fairfield, on suspicion of burglary and felony probation violations. Officers went to Avent’s home, where Castleman said they found an Xbox video game console belonging to the electrical contractor’s 10-year-old son and a laptop of Castleman’s 12-year-old daughter. “My kids are happy,” Castleman said of the recovery of the items. So is Castleman – with the Fairfield Police Department’s fast response, with Neighborhood Watch and with Nextdoor, a private social network for neighbors to talk online. That’s where, along with Facebook, the videos of the Sept. 26 incident were shared. Avent was arraigned Tuesday in Solano County Superior Court on charges of felony burglary and probation violation. He was appointed a public defender and pleaded not guilty. Family members of Avent declined to comment on the case. Avent is being held on no bail for the alleged felony probation violations and $45,000 bail on the burglary allegation. Castleman said he lost about $10,000 in the burglary – and that Fairfield police told him confronting the suspect “is not the brightest thing.” Sgt. Brett Morris said the very precise description of the vehicle and its location provided great help in apprehending the suspect, but that police don’t recommend approaching suspects. “We never suggest that people take matters into their own hands, especially when it comes to property crimes,” the sergeant said. The surveillance videos came from neighbors whose cameras filmed the silver Corolla on the street and the man with two duffel bags, said block captain Miller. Criminals sometimes overlook cameras and the surveillance video they capture. “A lot of the little thugs looking for cars to break into – they’re so numb in the skull they’re not even looking for that,” Miller said. The day after the burglary, three car burglaries occurred along Shoreline and nearby Breckinridge Drive, he said. “Stuff happens in the night,” he said. Miller and Castleman said new surveillance videos also show the silver Corolla returned to the neighborhood near Air Base Parkway for at least a third time, when the car appeared Monday. Moreover, Castleman said the tape of the Sept. 26 burglary at his home shows two men exchanged seats in the car and one left the house carrying the duffel bags. The other man remains at large, Castleman said. Castleman, a native of Fairfield, said he’s seen the city transformed. “Everybody knew each other,” the 38-year-old said of the city at one time. Now crime is common, Castleman said. ”I’ve watched Fairfield go from good to what it is now,” he said. Miller said the Woodlake neighborhood is not unique. Burglaries and car break-ins occur around the community and the country, he said. “Times are hard,” Miller said. “People are doing desperate things.” The suspect’s arrest sends a message and provides a satisfying counterpart to crime, he said. The message is that Woodlake is the wrong neighborhood to try to burglarize homes and vehicles, he said. “It felt so gratifying,” Miller said of the suspect’s arrest, “to have a successful ending.”

Ryan McCarthy

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