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Special crime patrols net arrests in Montecito as Thomas fire burns

A 32-year-old Lompoc man was arrested on suspicion of residential burglary after police caught him inside a Montecito residence Tuesday night, authorities said.

Adam Smith allegedly set off an alarm at a home in the 1000 block of Channel Drive and was spotted on surveillance video by the property’s on-site manager, who reported a burglary in progress to police, authorities said.

A contingent of officers from the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo county sheriff’s departments, along with Santa Maria police officers, responded to the report around 8:30 p.m. Although the burglary did not occur in an evacuation area, the officers had been patrolling nearby neighborhoods that had been ordered evacuated due to the Thomas fire.

The property manager monitored Smith’s movements on the surveillance feeds and relayed the information to officers searching the property, police said.

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James was arrested outside the property and is now being held without bail, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.

Tuesday’s arrest was not the first report of a crime in areas affected by the Thomas fire.

Last week, authorities arrested Cesar Flores, 31, on suspicion of entering a disaster area, loitering, possession of a burglary tool and using drugs in public after he was seen prowling on private property in an evacuated part of Montecito in the 600 block of El Bosque Road.

“We have had a heavy law enforcement presence patrolling the evacuation areas which has likely been a big deterrent to any potential looters,” said Santa Barbara County sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.

Over the weekend, police officers and firefighters came across a butane honey oil extraction lab in a residence in the hills of Montecito. The residence was in a mandatory evacuation area.

Investigators found 300 to 500 pounds of cut marijuana, 15 to 20 pounds of hashish, a small amount of butane honey oil, a commercial grade extraction lab, and numerous unopened cans of butane.

Butane honey oil extraction is a volatile process in which gases are heated to extract tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, from marijuana leaves.

Firefighters were battling flames on the property when the lab was discovered, police said.

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“Numerous extraction labs have exploded in this county and across the country injuring suspects and destroying residences,” the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release. “Additionally, these cases of fuel were left at the residence in the path of the oncoming fire making the situation even more volatile and dangerous.”

Hoover said investigators have persons of interest in the case but have not made arrests so far.


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