A Las Vegas police surveillance operation in Chinatown led to the arrest of two groups suspected in a recent series of car break-ins targeting tourists.
A total of six suspects face charges ranging from burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary and possession of stolen property in connection with at least three break-ins during the past two weeks in the Chinatown area, a multicultural district along Spring Mountain Road that extends from Rainbow Boulevard to Valley View Boulevard.
The first group was taken into custody Feb. 18, when plainclothes officers conducting surveillance saw them “actively looking for cars to break into,” Lt. Joshua Bitsko of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Spring Valley area command said Wednesday during a press conference in the Chinatown Plaza, 4255 Spring Mountain Road.
The next day, the same officers arrested three more men also seen casing vehicles, Bitsko said.
The two crews — from Oakland, California, and northeast Las Vegas — were working independently of each other and had burglary tools at the time of their arrests, police said.
The Las Vegas suspects have been identified as Tyrone Brown, 22, Milton Wallace, 23, and Marvin Brown, 61. The out-of-towners have been identified as Mack Woodfox, 22, Luka Beita, 23, and Nicolas West, 20.
Although there were only three known break-ins as of Wednesday afternoon, Bitsko said that detectives believe the men committed “many crimes” that were never reported.
“Historically, the Asian community has been hesitant to report crimes to the police,” he said, noting that authorities were still working to link property recovered during searches to other victims.
“It’s a large victim group in a small geographic area,” Bitsko said, pointing to a large tour bus idling nearby as tourists explored the Chinatown Plaza. “And bad guys know that.”
About 100 car burglaries, many involving rental cars, have been reported this year in Chinatown, where tourists flock year-round.
“This is a trend we’re seeing,” Bitsko said. “Just because we have these people in custody doesn’t mean this problem’s going away.”
As detectives identify more victims, Bitsko said, Metro will continue efforts to strengthen its relationship with the Asian community.
Chinatown Plaza property manager Joe Shen, who was standing close by, nodded in agreement.
“There has been tension because of the language and tradition barriers,” Shen later told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “But police have been working closely with us. They come almost on a biweekly basis.”
Shen said he is hopeful the recent arrests will ease that tension.
“I believe this is a great bridge for communication as well as for our relationship,” he said. “So now that the community sees police are making effort, they won’t feel that this community is being neglected.”
Anyone who has been a victim of a crime in Chinatown can contact Metro’s Spring Valley area command at 702-828-1615.