Theft of Seminary Student's Car Just the Latest Criminal Activity

This 1996 Honda Accord was stolen from in front of the Sandoval residence in Heritage Lake this ...

This 1996 Honda Accord was stolen from in front of the Sandoval residence in Heritage Lake this morning.
It started out as a normal Wednesday morning for Alexis Sandoval, 17, of Menifee as she headed out the front door at 6 a.m. on her way to attend a church seminary class.

That's when she discovered something missing -- the 1996 Honda Accord she had left parked in its usual place in front of the family home.

Police took a report of the auto theft -- one of several crimes reported to Menifee 24/7 by readers and to law enforcement agencies in recent weeks. Officers told Carli Sandoval, Alexis' mother, that even if the car is recovered, it's very likely that it will be stripped.

"This stinks," Carli Sandoval said. "Alexis is such a good girl. She's trying so hard to do good things, and then this happens."

Police often repeat their warning to residents to be aware of their surroundings, keep house doors and windows and vehicles locked, and report suspicious activities. Unfortunately, that warning can't be repeated often enough for people such as Sandoval, who has seen too much of this activity in the area lately.

"Across the street, my neighbor's truck was broken into," said Sandoval about crime in her neighborhood of Heritage Lake near Menifee Road and McCall Boulevard. "I left my van unlocked once and came out to find someone had gone through it. Fortunately, I hadn't left valuables in there. A couple years ago, a neighbor had an Acura stolen."

Many area residents communicate with each other to report criminal activity through email and on social media sites. Menifee 24/7 readers use this technology to share concerns and warn residents of areas where criminal activity appears to be prevalent.

A Dec. 16 Facebook posting stated that over the previous weekend, several residents had reported vandalism of Christmas decorations in the Lazy Creek community and surrounding areas. Residents reported seeing a white truck in the area at the time of the crimes, which usually happen after midnight.

On Dec. 15, a resident posted on the Menifee 24/7 Facebook page that neighbors woke to find their Christmas decorations damaged, smashed, torn and moved in their front lawns.

On Dec. 6, a Sun City resident posted on Facebook that a 2003 club car golf cart was stolen from the residence. The golf cart has a dark green body with an ivory bench seat and an orange flag on the back. It was stolen from a neighborhood near Bradley and Newport roads.

Criminal activity involving animals is suspected as well. According to one Facebook posting, residents in the Canyon Heights and Quail Valley areas are on the alert following reports of several dogs being sickened or killed with rat poisoning.

Resident reports of auto thefts, break-ins and other crimes are frequent in all surrounding areas. Although most are reported to police, law enforcement resources are limited. Some residents are taking advantage of the Neighborhood Watch program offered by the City of Menifee and Menifee Police Department.

Community Service Officer Nina Zalunardo (right) said a few new Neighborhood watch groups have been created recently, but more are needed. She admits it is a commitment that scares away some residents.

"A lot of people think in a Neighborhood Watch group, we (Sheriff's deputies) do all the work," Zalunardo said. "They have to do this themselves to help us.

"Some groups have their own Facebook pages and use social media in other ways. We encourage that. Some people like to handle it that way and others don't."

Zalunardo said Heritage Lake has a very active Neighborhood Watch group. Word of the Sandoval auto theft spread quickly. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to prevent the theft from occurring.

Carli Sandoval said the family has insurance that should cover some of the damage, including a newly purchased stereo in the vehicle. But the car -- which was purchased last March on the family's tight budget -- can never really be replaced, she said. She said including recent repairs, the family has put about $5,000 into the vehicle.

"Alexis didn't get her license in time to drive the car when we first got it," Carli Sandoval said. "Then she just started driving it when the transmission went out. It took us a while to save the money to get it fixed. We just got it back in October."

The vehicle was stolen sometime between 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and 6 a.m. Wednesday. Anyone with information about this case should contact the Menifee Police Department at 951-210-1000.

Increased awareness and reporting of suspicious activity by residents can help police in the fight against crime. Residents interested in inquiring about forming a Neighborhood Watch group should call Zalunardo at 951-210-1000.


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