HESPERIA • Bear Valley Auto Repair Shop co-owner Marie Roorda couldn’t believe how brazen thieves were when they stole a Jeep from the property — part of a string of recent thefts at the business.

“They just cut the fence and drove the Jeep right through,” Roorda said.

On May 21, thieves hot-wired the vehicle and drove it off the business’ lot through the chain-link fence. She said thefts and burglaries are becoming more common. In the past two months, the phone box behind the shop and an air conditioning unit had their copper wires stripped.

The Touch of Class Car Wash next door to the auto shop, on Bear Valley Road between Second and Third avenues, has also had its share of copper theft. Authorities said a copper supply pipe was stolen from the location last month.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Hesperia Station spokeswoman Sue Rose said copper wire theft has always been a problem in the High Desert, and statistics show that property crimes are up.

“It’s not a new thing,” Rose said. “Copper wire theft is a fast and easy way to make money, so it’s not out of the ordinary.”

She also said most recycling centers are very cooperative with the law and keep copies of identification cards from those who turn in metals, but it’s nearly impossible to trace and identify property unless it is labeled or has some sort of identifying serial number.

Theresa Herrera from Victor Valley Recycling Center in Hesperia echoed Rose’s comments and said when people come in to recycle copper wire they are required to provide a valid photo ID. There is a three-day hold on funds to allow business owners to come and claim any stolen property.

But Herrera said that some smaller “mom and pop” recycling centers need the money so badly that they may not cooperate with the laws.

“Smaller places do get away with stuff that the rest of us wouldn’t be able to just because they’re so small and end up going out of business so fast,” Herrera said. “They just keep springing up and they’ll keep doing it until complaints are made.”

Roorda blames the exploding population for the burglaries. She said she has been at the shop since 2001 and has had no problems until the air conditioning unit was stripped eight weeks ago.

“We need to take our desert back,” Roorda said. “It has to stop.”

Anneli Fogt can be reached at AFogt@VVDailyPress.com or 760-951-6276.

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