Car Burglaries Near Bidwell Park

by Jack

Early this morning, at exactly 1:30 a.m., two shadowy figures wearing blue jeans and black hoodies covertly entered our cul-de-sac. They were moving briskly from one parked car to the next, stopping just long enough to open the glove boxes, consoles and do a brief search, even looking under the seats.

They scattered the contents of each car carelessly on their floors, perhaps taking only the most valuable items they spotted. My neighbors pick-up truck had a locked tool box inside, but next to it was an expensive carpenters level, too large for the box. They took that. Now they moved down the street towards my vehicles….


When they reached my daughters car they tripped a silent silent alarm which brought me out of a dead sleep.

I scrambled to put on my shorts and a tee shirt, grabbed my gun and headed for the front door, barefoot.  My daughter worked late and she was still semi-awake watching TV.

I said, “The alarm’s going off!” We had both been waiting for this to happen for a number of weeks since the last theft.   Our neighborhood seems to be very popular with thieves and I think it’s because we live so close to Bidwell Park where a number of homeless make their camps,

My daughter sprang to her feet and the first words out of her mouth was, “Good, lets get em!” She was ready to dash outside and make a citizens arrest. I told her to hang on and wait.  I peered outside through the almost closed window blinds. “He’s there, I see him… he’s in the – – – – .  Quick call 9-1-1.”  She grabbed a cordless phone and dialed as I watched the hooded figure enter my car, then handed me the phone.

A female voice answered on the 2nd ring, “9-1-1 what’s your emergency?” This is (insert my name) at ( —- address ).  We have an… “Hello 9-1-1 emergency?”  She repeated. “Uh, this is (my name) at ( street address ). We have an in-progress vehicle burglary, one dark figure in a hoody, can’t see much.”  The dispatcher asked me for the description as a matter of policy, but I couldn’t give her any, other than what I already said.

I could hear her typing as I talked and there was a pause.

I waited on the phone.  Nothing.  The seconds rolled by like minutes. My daughter peeked outside, “I see him!  Come on, lets go get him!  Lets go… come on, you’ve got a gun!”

She was chomping at the bit, ready to take this person down. “No, let’s wait for the police to get here.” My main concern was I didn’t want to scare him off.  I am too old to run him down if he rabbits and he surely would.  I wanted the police to cut him off!  We live just across from the park in a cul-d-sac and once he makes it into the wooded park there is no stopping him, he’s gone.

I still didn’t hear anything from the 9-1-1 dispatcher, but I thought she must be listening on the phone as she dispatched police to our location.  (That’s what I would have been doing when I was dispatching and I did work as a relief dispatcher for many years.)   The seconds ticked off way too slow.    This was taking too long on the phone.   So, I said something to the dispatcher like, “I think I’m going to try to engage the suspect, I’m a retired police officer and….”  But, there was no reply.  She wasn’t listening, but I could hear activity in the background.

I handed the phone back to my daughter and then I put on a pair of sneakers and grabbed a flashlight. Still nothing from the dispatcher.

Now I’m thinking of trying to catch and detain this guy.   I thought surely the police are on the way and should be arriving any second.  I remember from my old police days my response times averaged 90 seconds.   We kept records to prove our response time, so it was truly 90 seconds on average and that was within acceptable limits in our day and further, my patrol beat was about the same size as a Chico beat.  We were well passed that 90 second time when I finally decided, maybe I should try to catch the guy or at least try to spot him again.

Still I waited.  I thought, maybe they were tied up on another emergency call? Time was dragging, he was out there, only I couldn’t see him anymore.

My cars have been entered and ransacked about 4 times in the last year and I wanted to get this guy bad!  If I couldn’t see him, he probably couldn’t see me so I figured this was my opportunity to slip out the front door in the dark. Maybe I could place myself between the park and this guy, cut him off and make the arrest?

There were 5 vehicles parked on the street that had been entered.    A street light was about 50 feet away from the closest car, my daughters.  This gave me just enough light to see under the vehicles and now I am down low in the dark looking for feet, a shadow or something to reveal the position of the burglar.  Nothing visible.

I made my way slowly to the farthest vehicle up the street.  It’s drivers door was ajar and the doom light was on.  There was a backpack  lying on the streetside near the point of entry.   There was no sign of movement anywhere now,  the street was dead quiet.

Minutes had past since that 9-1-1 call, where were the police?  Believing that I probably lost him, I turned on my flashlight, scanning inside each vehicle and each yard as I made my way back towards the end of the street.  With each passing vehicle, hope was fading that I had trapped him.

By the time I reached the last car it was obvious he was gone. Now my daughter came outside and she walked away from me, towards the first vehicle that was hit, about 10 car lengths from where I stood surveying her ransacked Honda.  It was then that two people wearing hoodies showed up.  No doubt this was the team that was hitting the vehicles.  Had they returned for the backpack?

They were just 100 feet from my daughter, who now took cover behind a vehicle. She watched as they paused and then turned around and headed back out of the area.

I didn’t see anyone because they were just around the corner from my line of sight, but for some reason I glanced her way.  She was flailing her arms to get my attention.   So, I jogged towards her and finally she said in a low voice, they came back, they were just here, there’s two of them, one was on a BMX bike, wearing black hoodies.

Unfortunately, they left.  The street was now empty. We walked up the block and stood on the corner looking at Bidwell Park. Nothing. No movement, a few dogs were now barking, but there was no sign of them, they had escaped. All that was left behind was this backpack next to the pickup truck. (this would later be picked up by police).

We walked back to the first victims house and I rang the door bell. I had notified the majority of the neighbors when the first police car finally arrived. I tried to call 9-1-1 from our portable phone, but there was not enough signal so I walked right next door to my property and the phone came to life. I re-dialed 9-1-1 and and reached another dispatcher. I explained I had called in a crime in progress earlier and wondered if they had dispatched anyone? She could tell I was a bit angry and assured me her co-dispatcher had put the call out.

I think this whole episode must have taken about 8-9 minutes from the time I made the first 9-1-1 call, not too long, but long enough not to catch “hit and run” thieves.

The first officer on scene rolled up next to me in his squad car and I provided a brief description of the suspect I saw. The officer wheeled around to do a search and began using his spotlight on the park and down Vallombrosa Ave. (this street parallels the park). Maybe another minute passed and a second unit arrived. Then the first guy returned and we began to take stock of what might have been missing.

Several neighbors were now standing outside. Then a call came in on the police radio of a stabbing on Wayne Lane! I could hear other units rolling code 3 in the neighborhood. Wayne Lane was only about 8-10 blocks from our place. The officers did what they could to assess the situation, noting the license numbers of victim vehicles. They did a brief search and now they had another call. So off they went, but not before one of them suggested I put up a night-time camera.  I suppose, maybe next time they would have more to go on?

I probably won’t be doing that.   If there is a next time, I think the 9-1-1 call will be for two in custody.

Bottom line: This should serve as notice to y-o-u that, once again, when the seconds count the police are only minutes away.

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20 Responses to Car Burglaries Near Bidwell Park

  1. Peggy says:

    Jack, there are almost daily post in the on-line community watch group called “Nextdoor” of vehicle break ins that match yours. My own sister in law’s car was hit when she came for a visit. I know her fairly new Jeep was locked because I heard her set the alarm, but the next morning the content of her glovebox and console was on the seats and floor. It appeared the only thing they took was all of the coins, but left expensive emergency tools and survival gear in the back.

    The Nextdoor comments come from your area, downtown, northern area and mine. Some occur during the day and people are able to post pictures of the suspects. One set of pictures was of two young men on bikes riding up and down the street stopping at each car. Looked like they were marking their targets for that night.

    Joining Nextdoor is by invitation. If you or anyone else is interested I’d be happy to send you and invite with your email address.

    My son’s truck got hit last year over in the Hancock Park homes behind CVS by PVHS. I’m looking into getting him and myself one of those security cameras for Christmas. With all of the homeless now living on Chico’s streets no one’s property is safe any more.

    Here is the link to Nextdoor to check out. It’s more than just an online neighborhood watch source. It also post local events, etc. Friends in the bay area have joined one for their community.–ca/

    Side note. Remember your article weeks ago about Chico looking into putting up a Tiny home community for the homeless? I posted I had friends in San Jose close to where one that had been approved for construction by the city council. Those friends are getting their house ready to sell, before the value of their home takes a big dive. They are in their 60s and are self employed. They’ll need the equity in their house to live on when they can no longer work. I feel so sorry for them.

  2. RHT447 says:

    “Bottom line: This should serve as notice to y-o-u that, once again, when the seconds count the police are only minutes away.”


    For those here of the same mindset, I would encourage you to become a regular visitor to the following websites. Much good info there. Take some time and rummage through the archives and articles.

  3. Michelle says:

    I would be embarrassed to be a cop in Chico. To me it runs from the top down so the chief needs to start doing things differently. It is a matter of time before good citizen or dirt bag thief gets hurt and lives are ruined.

    • J. Soden says:

      Chico City Council is on the hook as well. It’ll take one of them to be a crime victim before they’ll wake up.

    • Peggy says:

      I think we need to remember it was Halloween weekend and the cops had their hands full dealing with Chico State students downtown. I’ve only had to call them once because of a problem between two of my neighbors and they were here in minutes.

      If you have a problem with the chief of police vote in a new city council where I mayor comes from. He/she hires our chiefs to whom they serve.

  4. Jim says:

    The Chico Police Department is seriously understaffed for the amount of crime we have. I really wish the City would make public safety the top priority, currently it’s not. Meanwhile we have useless administrators that do almost nothing constructive. They spend time and money working on projects like bicycle paths and public art that most people don’t want. We have a full time airport manager drawing a hefty salary that we don’t need. In my opinion these type of administrative positions should be eliminated and use the funds to hire more police.

    The problem is that most people don’t seem to care enough to demand public safety. I don’t know what we can do. I fear it’s only going to get worse.

    • Peggy says:

      Here here!!!

      We can attend city council meetings and send emails and calls to council members. As the saying goes, “To not speak is to speak.”

    • Joe says:

      They spend time and money working on projects like bicycle paths and public art that most people don’t want.

      And lets not forget that a flock of bureaucrats recently got nice raises, including the City Manager.

      There’s never enough money to fix the roads or keep the community safe but there’s ALWAYS plenty of money for bureaucrat compensation increases.

      • Peggy says:

        It’s the old follow the money trail. We pay taxes to fix our roads and maintain our parks, but it gets moved into the General Fund account and spent on other non-categorical accounts.

        My understand is only fund put into categorical accounts can not be moved around. They must be spent for the designated purpose.

  5. Harold says:

    Jack, are you and the neighbors going to pursue and petition a explanation from the City council or Police Chief as to the lengthy time of the police response, possibly due in part of the poor training of the 911 operator?

    Also due to the fact you have mentioned this is a recurring problem in that area, why was the response time so delayed to begin with, I am sure they both will offer a CYA explanation, but at least it will be of record for future calls.

    Isn’t this the same general area that forced the Post office annex to lock the doors at night because of the criminal activity.

  6. J. Soden says:

    Not sure if it happens in Chico but in most areas all 911 calls and responses by dispatchers are taped.
    Might be interesting to actually play the tape at the next city council meeting . . . . .

    • Post Scripts says:

      Thanks for the suggestion J. Soden. However, I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble over this. That really wasn’t my point. I fully acknowledge the dispatcher was multi-tasking and no doubt had her hands full. I would also give the benefit of the doubt that the responding officers got there as soon as they could, because they were similarly busy. My whole point was to to tell the story as I and my daughter recalled, to share some of our frustrations and anxiety of the incident and what we see taking place in Chico with the transients. I can’t say the suspects were homeless, or druggies looking to support their habit. Heck, they could have been teenagers out on the prowl, who knows at this point? Anyway, my daughter read this over and said that is pretty much how it was, good, bad or otherwise. Of course I’m sure the dispatcher would have something to add, however I acknowledged she was busy, so its ok.

  7. Joe says:


    It is clear the police will do nothing to stop this. It and much worse will happen over and over and over again and you know it. Face it, your car and your daughter’s car are next, again!

    There is one very easy way to end all of this. Allow the victims or anyone carrying to shoot these criminals if they catch them in the act. All it would take is a few victims to defend their property and lives and this would end very soon. Once the criminals know they face possible death by committing their heinous deeds, they will stop.

  8. More Common Sense says:

    It is very clear that the Chico Police Department is greatly understaffed and is having considerable difficulty dealing with the rising crime rate. Property crimes are lower priority than violent crimes and the PD is having difficulty keeping up with the shootings, robberies, and assaults so the main focus of the PD is to gather information and provide a police report for the citizen to give to their insurance company to prove there was a burglary. Its a sad situation that seems to be getting worse, not better.

    So why is this happening. Well the simple answer is limited tax revenue and rising city manpower costs. The manpower costs have been discussed over and over. We need to pay city employees more and more to get people to take the jobs. The same is true of the PD. Given the rising cost per employee it seems like the only real way of dealing with the manpower costs is to reduce the head count. Of course that just makes matters worse.

    So lets address the other side of this issue, the limited tax revenue. The City of Chico has many income sources but two of the biggest sources are sales tax and property taxes. Sales tax revenues have grown over the years but not as much as everyone would hope. Part of this is because Chico is no longer the shopping hub it once was. We are losing the shoppers that use to come from surrounding communities to do their big ticket shopping. This is as a result of the expansion of shopping options in these very same communities. The trip to Chico is no long necessary to make their purchases.

    The potential for a City sales tax has been proposed but this would just drive shoppers outside of city limits for their large ticket items and could have a negative effect on revenue over time. Have you ever wondered why car lots are usually located just outside of the city limits in many areas?

    That leaves property taxes. I would like to pose the idea that the anti-business and anti-growth policies of the City of Chico (and many people in Chico) are the root cause of this problem. If we would allow Chico to grow at a reasonable rate and solicit some companies to locate in Chico the increase in revenue due to the increase in property taxes would have a significant positive impact on the City bottom line. And, maybe our kids wouldn’t have to move to the Bay Area after College to get a good paying job.

    Of course, more houses increases property taxes but it also increases demand on services. The same is true for new industrial buildings but I contend the demand on City services presented by a commercial building are far less than a residential neighborhood of equal property tax base. Growing industry would increase property taxes with minimal demand on services. Keep in mind during non-work hours an industrial park is usually deserted. It would be interesting to compare PD calls to an industrial park at night compared to a residential neighborhood at night.

    We have a very limited industrial presence in Chico. When I first moved to Chico in 2001 a realtor told me in Chico you either had to work for the University, Enloe Hospital, start your own business or, like a lot of people do in this town, start your own nonprofit and get the City to fund it. Some things have changed since 2001. There is Sierra Nevada. and a number of other large employers but there really isn’t enough industry in this town to support a town of this size. And, the City can no longer continue to fund all the non-profits.

    I know that many Chico residents are scared to death that Chico will become San Jose. That is a reasonable concern but it can be taken to an extreme. If you have a town that people want to live in there are going to be people moving there. Every way to limit the growth will have negative effects on the community. A very wise man once told me (paraphrased) “the only way to limit the growth of a community where people want to live is to make it a place no one wants to live in”. It’s a very true statement. Growth is healthy and good. The important thing is to control the growth by careful and wise planning. I grew up in Fairfield in the 1960s when the population was around 15,000 to 20,000. It was a great town then. It’s now a city of 120,000 people. I’m uncomfortable in Fairfield now when I visit. Fairfield could have done a better job planning but I don’t know what Fairfield could have done to prevent the growth. It was inevitable. It’s kind of like trying to prevent a child from growing. Anything that you could try to do would be detrimental. Instead you allow the child to grow and try to shape it so what you end up with is a great adult. The same is true for a small town. The best bet is let it grow but guide its growth so as it grows it remains a very livable City.

    Maybe if in the past the residents of Chico were not so quick to stomp out any growth in industry and housing we wouldn’t be dealing with a shortage in funds and there would be enough money to keep the City a nice place to live.

    • Peggy says:

      More Common Sense, If you’re not already on our city council I hope you will be soon. Let me/us know where we can send a donation to your campaign fund!!!

      I moved to San Jose in 1960 and saw the whole area turn from prune and apricot orchards to Silicon Valley computer chips. My home in Campbell I purchased in 1979 for $109,000 sold last month for $1.3mil. Property tax revenue for the whole bay area has to be highest in the nation or a close second or third.

      When I moved here in 2003 there was a court case going on with a developer and the city over prior approval for higher end homes on large lots in the Upper park area. The city pulled the permits and the contractor sued for $9mil. if my memory is correct, for out of pocket cost for running water and sewer line, etc. all of the way down East Ave. west of Cohassett. I knew Chico was a college town, but I thought no group of people could be that stupid. They had to know they’ed get sued, but they didn’t care. And it cost the hard working taxpayers of this city a lot of money. Money that today could be paying for the badly need police force.

      Rumors are flying that JC Penney’s is closing all of it’s stores and will be going online only. If they move out we’ll have nothing left here for clothes except Wall Mart, TJ Maxx and a handful of small unique or specialty shops left. So where do we all shop now? The outlets in Roseville and Vacaville. Yup, we take off for the day and go have a shopping spree and lunch and drive home with our trunks full. Chico’s loss again.

      Or Amazon gives us the comfort of shopping in our PJs and it’s delivered in two days.

      My son graduated from Chico state. He built his career up to move back here. Where will his two kids want to live? Not Chico if there’s nothing to keep them here.

      • More Common Sense says:


        Thanks for the nice words. Unfortunately (or is it fortunately) I live in North Chico outside of city limits so I am not allowed to run for City Council. I’m also not allowed to vote for City Council members. This has always bothered me because I have a considerable investment in downtown commercial property. That being said, I’m not sure I have the temperament for the office. I don’t handle “stupid” very well and I am usually not hesitant to make my opinion known when presented with stupidity.

        I too lived in Campbell having moved there in 1986 from Santa Clara. I lived in the neighborhood behind the Safeway on Winchester Blvd until 2001 when I moved to Chico. Although I was working as a software consultant during that time I partnered with a friend and in 1994 opened a hair salon in Old Town Campbell at 274 East Campbell Avenue. It was in the old gray building right across the street from Starbucks. The salon name was “Gargoyles, A Salon”. I later bought the building.

        I bring this up because at the time we started the salon Old Town Campbell had about 50% vacancy and was overrun by transients. Then the City of Campbell cleared out the transients, turned Campbell Avenue back into a two way street from a one way street and the vacancies started to fill. First the restaurants came with outside dining. This brought more people into the area and the storefronts started to fill up with interesting businesses that stayed open into the night.

        I’ve been back from time to time and today Old Town Campbell is a thriving business area. It is very upscale and much different from what it was in 1994. Today it resembles Willow Glenn or downtown Los Gatos.

        Does this sound familiar? Take a look at downtown Chico. Today I’m very “bullish” on downtown Chico. People are finally willing to do something about the transient problem. It was announced that the Jesus Center will be moving out to the area next to the Torres Center which will greatly reduce the downtown transient population. Many vacant buildings downtown are being remodeled and many new restaurants are being opened. There are even more restaurants in the works.

        A new 3 story office building/ residential building is being planned for south of Municipal Parking Lot 1. I also heard that the vacant space above Pluto’s is being converted to residential. If more of the downtown upstairs space (and there is a lot which is now mostly used for storage) is converted to residential we will have a 24 hour presence downtown which will make it less favorable to the “bad guys” at night. There are great changes occurring downtown.

        It is ironic that while the Chico Mall seems to be dying, losing the large department stores like Sears and Penny’s, the downtown is on the verge of a major Renaissance. The old and new Chico Mall almost killed the downtown by moving the major department stores out of the downtown area. But the big department stores are experiencing considerable competition from the internet and many are losing. In addition energy costs are making mammoth buildings too costly to operate. Have you noticed how dim the lights are in some of these big buildings?

        The downtown businesses had to change their business model long ago and become unique boutique business and service oriented retail businesses to survive because of those very same huge department stores. As a result they are are less impacted by the internet competition.

        Companies like Target, Walmart, Whole Foods, and Amazon have seen the changing face of small town retail and have been experimenting with small (less than 20,000 sq ft) versions of their stores in the downtown areas of college towns. The concept is order online and pickup at the store minutes later along with the usual shopping model. What is interesting to me is the downtown Chico buildings that housed Penney’s, Grants, Sears, etc. are all about 20,000 to 25,000 sq feet. It seems we are coming full circle.

        Keep an eye on Chico’s downtown. I believe, if everything continues as it is going, we are on the verge of having the “show piece” of a downtown we have always wanted; a new center piece for the City of Chico.

        • Post Scripts says:

          That is really encouraging news. The old model of brick and mortar sales isn’t working and retail companies that want to survive against the new Amazon type competition must reinvent themselves. This is evolution at its finest, it’s pure capitalism, survival of the fittest and it’s always been like that. By the way, did you know that chain restaurants are having trouble in the new economy? Yep, peopled spendings habits are changing because we don’t have the money we once did. They are beginning to realize that the kitchen in their house was built for a reason other than decoration. Not only can you save hundreds of dollars, possibly thousands, on your annual food bill by using it regularly, but a reasonably good cook and produce a darn good meal AND SAVE MONEY! Wow, what a concept. This might even have an impact on FAT America, Lord knows something better…look at us…we’re fat and out of shape like never before in history! So that kitchen has value and so does our downtown retailer if they are marketing themselves correctly.

        • Peggy says:

          Wow MCS, it really is a small world. I bought and sold three home in the Campbell area. The first off of Hamilton and Leigh, the second between Campbell Ave., Bascom, Leigh and Dry Creek Rd. and the last at 1600 Hamilton Place after my husband passed and my sons went off to college.

          That is great news about downtown Campbell. I too remember when it was nothing but empty stores. I went to West Valley College when it was at the old Campbell elementary school. Last I saw it had been converted into high end office space. Glad they didn’t tear it down.

          I was there when the Pruneyard, Valley Fair and Town and Country Village went through their transformations from their 1960s footprint to the beautiful and profitable operations they are today I’m pretty sure they’re having with the booming bay area economy. Santa Row was completed not too many years before I left and since I worked really close we’d often go over for drinks and dinner. Beautiful place and with the living quarter over the stores it was also a fun place to go at any time. It was pricey but worth it.

          Besides working at SJCC for almost 30 years my husband and I had a business on McGlincy Rd. just south of town. It was a calibration lab. We serviced the tools and granite surface plates for every industry in the area. Electronic, aircraft, automotive, shipping and even a mine in the Sierras were among our customers. I mention this only because over the years the automotive, which included diesel transportation and aircraft died out, but were replaced with more electronics than we could keep up with. Spectra Physics during their development years really made our paydays nice.

          I agree, Chico could see a real boom, if their leaders would allow it. With Butte and Chico State their future employees and residents are already here, if they work with the private sector and develop certificate and degrees to meet the demands of future business growth. My job at the college was to help develop those certificates and degrees with the faculty and their department deans to obtain state approval. The state required proof of demand before they would fund programs. Instructors could offer a course or two in a new area, like at the time was multi-media and computer graphics. But to offer a 36 unit certificate and 60 unit degree the state would not allow it without their stamp of approval.

          Hopefully, the colleges and business owners of the future are already planning for the direction Chico will grow.

          Hey, since you can’t run for city council, how about county supervisor? Those new businesses are not all going to fit downtown. Lots of undeveloped real estate around.

          As for not handling “stupid” people well and “usually not hesitant to make my opinion known when presented with stupidity.” I can think of another guy who the same could be said of and he’s in the Oval Office. Most of us are tired of dealing with stupid people who think we’re the stupid ones. All I ask is if you’ll consider it? This county needs you and others like you as much as this country needed loudmouth Trump.

          If you haven’t seen this announcement of Broadcom relocating it’s headquarters to the us it’s worth seeing the heartfelt words of it’s CEO express his thanks to Trump and America for making it possible. Broadcom is the major supplier for most of the technology in our iPhones, etc. Yes, loudmouth Trump made this happen.

          Trump Says Semi-Conductor Firm Broadcom Will Move Headquarters Back to US:

          “He said the Fortune 100 company already employs more than 7,500 Americans in 24 states.

          “With this commitment, more than 20 billion dollars in annual revenue will come back to our cities, towns and the American workers,” he declared.”

          This in my opinion is the best model on how to bring a robust economy to a community. It takes the coordination of existing resources and someone with the know how to utilize it.

          How an economic developer is bringing factory jobs back to Mississippi:
          “Joe Max Higgins is credited with generating about 6,000 manufacturing jobs in Mississippi’s Golden Triangle, one of the poorest areas in the country. How’s he doing it? Bill Whitaker reports.”

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