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The Schott family home fronting Cuddy Valley Road is wired with motion sensors. Burglars tripped one on Saturday, Aug. 4 at 12:59 a.m. Sheriffs arrived in minutes. She called all her neighbors to sound the alert the next morning: "They’re baaack," she said.
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Karen Schott is serious about helping to put an end to the burglaries plaguing Cuddy Valley.
By Patric Hedlund
The Schott family of Cuddy Valley woke with a jolt Saturday, Aug. 4 at 12:59 a.m.
A motion alarm was sounding, and it wasn’t stopping. Daughter Rhonda Zimmerman shot out of bed. Karen Schott slid toward the phone.
“Is it a bird?” Zimmerman asked. “No,” Schott told her daughter, “Someone is moving around in the barn.”
The Schott’s property is rigged with silent motion sensors. They called 911.
Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Reed Lovan was patrolling on Cuddy Valley Road that night. He arrived within minutes and headed up a dirt path toward the barn with his gun drawn, calling loudly, “Kern County Sheriff!” Minutes after Lovan’s arrival, another KCSO investigator and two California Highway Patrol officers were on the scene.
Schott appreciates the response. She is less impressed with how the penal system fails to protect citizens.
“What disturbs me the most is that we think people are out of circulation and then they are let out, and we don’t even know it,” Schott complained, “Sometimes we don’t even know what they look like.”
She is angered to hear that Mike Cook of Pine Mountain and Piñon Pines was arrested for theft and receiving stolen property this spring, pled no contest to both, was sentenced to 9 months in jail, but was released in 3 months and has returned to this area. Schott expressed concerned that the plague of robberies in Pine Mountain and Cuddy Valley is starting up again.
Because Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood has a policy of not releasing booking photos to the news media, someone like Cook can, for now, freely surveil neighborhood properties without being spotted as suspicious, Schott points out.
Deputy Lovan found two sets of footprints between the barn and perimeter barbed wire fences that had been cut behind the barn. Schott believes the burglars use night goggles or small, high intensity focused lights. The family watched the barn closely after their sensor was tripped, but saw no moving light. Meanwhile, cupboards, closet doors and drawers were opened in the barn workshop, with power tools removed.
Schott speculates that one burglar climbed through the barn’s back window, removing tools and passing them to an accomplice who stacked them on the ground outside.They were scared off by the deputy’s arrival before the burglars could gather up the goods.
Schott’s theory is that the thieves are dropped off by a driver, come across pastures away from the road, cut fences, and enter at the back of buildings. “All you’d need is a cell phone to call to be picked up with the goods,” she said. But the bunch that invaded her property left with no payoff for their efforts. The family’s array of motion sensors (about $100 each; transmitting a radio signal) foiled the burglars’ plan. They ran, leaving behind evidence and the power tools they had planned to steal.
The first thing the next morning, the story of the Schott’s ‘visit’ was being transmitted across the entire valley, by telephone, personal visit and email.
Michelle Maga sent out this message: "Heads Up Neighbors!
“Karen Schott’s workshop was broken into last night… they found a bunch of power tools had been set outside. The shop has windows; they broke in that way.
“Lock up! Stay alert…and please, if someone attempts to break in to your place, send the word out to everyone!"
In the following days the Magas walked their own perimeter fence and found that it too had been cut at the back of their property in an out-of-the- way area that they rarely visit.
“I am very upset about the return of the burglar activity,” Maga said. She added that the Schott’s security measures worked to sound an alert and allow time to get law enforcement to respond.
Then she began explaining her own worries: “We don’t know if we’re being set up for a burglary with this fence cutting, or if they came into our place, looked at the locks, motion activated lights and other measures, and decided we aren’t a good target—being as far away from the road as we are. There is no way to look into either of our outbuildings, as neither has windows.*
“This warning should alert all residents of the Mountain Communities until an end is put to this resurgence of home and outbuilding burglaries,” Maga concluded.
*UPDATE: Maga sent out a note to neighbors on Friday, Aug. 17 revealing that some tools had indeed been stolen from one of their less secure outbuildings, but that they had only discovered that fact on Friday morning, Aug. 17.
This is part of the August 17, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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