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Suspected Burglars Stopped By Police, Alert Homeowners

HEMET (CBS) — Around a half-dozen suspected burglars using a variety of methods to perpetrate or attempt to perpetrate thefts in Hemet were behind bars Wednesday.

Hemet police Lt. Eric Dickson attributed the capture of the alleged thieves to alert homeowners and the quick response of patrol officers.

According to Dickson, the flurry of break-ins started around 8 a.m. Monday when two juveniles tried to force their way into a house in the 3000 block of Claremont Street. A witness called police, and officers arrested the boys minutes later.

The youths, whose identities were not released, were booked into Southwest Juvenile Hall in Murrieta.

Around 8:30 Monday night, 18-year-old Winnie Wade McElfresh and a teenage accomplice allegedly tried to break into a woman's mobile home in the 600 block of Seville Drive. After the victim called 911, officers converged on the scene and immediately located the suspects hiding underneath a neighboring residence, Dickson said.

They were taken into custody without incident. McElfresh was booked into the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta on suspicion of burglary and probation violations. He's being held without bail. The teen was released to his parents.

Around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, officers were alerted to a man carrying a toddler and wandering the area of Lyon Street and Oakland Avenue, asking for residents to let him inside to change his child's diaper or use the facilities, according to Dickson.

"Hemet police units responded and ultimately detained the suspect after a brief chase," the lieutenant said. "Investigation revealed that the suspect had gained entry to at least two homes and stolen property. The suspect was identified by several witnesses and was in possession of a large amount of cash, jewelry and credit cards."

The ex-con was identified as 27-year-old Erik "BJ" Burt. He was booked into the Southwest Detention Center on suspicion of burglary, receiving stolen property and parole violations and was being held without bail.

Shortly after Burt's arrest, officers were summoned to the 100 block of San Jacinto Avenue, where a suspected burglar was stuck in a pickup truck.

According to Dickson, 27-year-old Ernie Steven Mesta  tried to break into the vehicle by crawling through a rear window, but got hung up.

"Despite being trapped in a vehicle that didn't belong to him, the suspect yelled at officers, `I'm not a suspect!"' Dickson said.

The San Jacinto man was arrested on suspicion of attempted burglary and parole violations. He is being held without bail at the Southwest Detention Center.

According to Dickson, with the holiday season in full swing, burglaries and opportunity crimes are surging. He advised residents to take extra precautions and do all they can to secure their homes and vehicles, keeping valuables out of sight.

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