Tip List: Downtown lofts parking lot is crime central

The parking lot behind the Merced Lofts in downtown Merced may not strike you as a den of iniquity for thieves and vandals.

But to local residents, it has become just that.

It seems as if this parking lot has become a veritable bazaar for enterprising thieves in the market for bigger paydays than pocket change.

Bikes and their tires have been stolen, cars have been broken into and vandalized. And, in one case, a thief brazenly walked away with a car battery.

And this is just a list of what has happened in recent months.

Residents have communicated their troubles to the building's management -- to no avail.

"Unfortunately, there have been quite a few vehicle break-ins in our parking lot," said resident Brigid Ferrari. Ferrari lost the wheels from her bicycle when they were stolen. She said she told Gonella Realty, the property's manager, and there was some talk of putting in surveillance cameras.

But nothing has been done yet. Still, she said, she loves living in the lofts.

Janna Rodriguez, also a resident, has had her car vandalized twice and her van broken into. She told management about the problem and even offered to help pay for a camera system. But they haven't responded. "They didn't do anything about it," she said.

Cathy Lewis, who manages the property for Gonella Realty, said she's aware of the vandalism and thefts and has notified the building's owners, the Tolkin Group. They have discussed putting in security cameras and other possible security measures. "We are just getting numbers for them," she said of inquiries into security. Hopefully, she said, there should be a decision on what to do by the end of next week.

Merced Police Department spokesman Floyd Higdon said the incidents are a common occurrence in Merced. "We have vandalism almost every day," he said. "It's pretty much happening around the town."

Despite such incidents, nonviolent crime went down in 2008, he said.

WHAT'S WRONG: Theft and vandalism abound in the parking lot behind the Merced Lofts, in downtown Merced.

WHO'S INVOLVED: The thieves and vandals, of course. But some residents say the property owners have been dragging their heels when it comes to security.

If you see something wrong or in need of repair in your neighborhood, call the Sun-Star Tip List reporter Jonah Owen Lamb, with your tips at (209) 385-2484 or e-mailed jlamb@mercedsun-star.com.