Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Public Safety

Missing three-year-old girl found in Peña Blanca

—Lieutenant Keith Elder, Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department

On February 12, at about 4:45 p.m., Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to a home in Peña Blanca to investigate a missing three-year-old girl. The child’s father, 28, of Peña Blanca, had put the toddler down for her nap at about 1:30 p.m. After she was asleep, he also took a nap. The child woke up while he was asleep and was able to squeeze by a couch that was pushed against the front door to prevent her from going outside if she woke up before her father.

The child was apparently outside playing with the family dogs when the dogs left the property and the child followed them. The father woke up about 3:00 p.m. and began looking for her. After he searched the house he went outside and continued the search. A neighbor called Sandoval County Regional Dispatch and made the notification that the child was missing while the father continued his search.

Sandoval County deputies received the notification about 4:45 p.m. and arrived shortly after. They found the search area for the child to be very large and asked for assistance from neighboring law enforcement agencies. Rio Rancho Police officers, New Mexico State Police officers, and BIA officers initially assisted and responded to Peña Blanca. Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office Reserves deputies and NM Search and Rescue were called however they were cancelled prior to their arrival because the child had been located.

The child was located in a field across from the neighbor’s house. The neighbor told investigators she heard the girl crying and went outside to see what was wrong. She said she found the girl and took her into her home and called deputies to let them know that she had found a little girl. New Mexico State Police officers responded to the home with Sandoval County Fire Department EMS. The child was checked by EMTs and returned to her mother. She was dressed for daytime and was unhurt, except for a few minor scrapes; otherwise she was in good spirits. She had traveled about a third of a mile from her home to where she was found. The reason for the large response for the child by law enforcement was that she was not dressed for the nighttime cold and temperatures were falling rapidly.

Off-roaders irk U.S. Forest Service

—Bill Diven

A confrontation over off-road vehicles on U.S. Forest Service land in Placitas is prompting a reminder of what is and is not legal on that public land.

The issue arose after a Placitas resident on Forest Road 445 saw fresh all-terrain-vehicle tracks off the road and then encountered a couple driving new ATVs. By the resident’s account, when she told the couple they were acting outside the law, the man got hostile and the woman called 911.

While the confrontation didn’t turn physical, everyone gave up and left after waiting about thirty minutes for a sheriff’s deputy to arrive. The resident’s description of the ATVs indicates they were not licensed for street use and therefore not allowed on the forest road let alone off of it.

FR445 is a roughly five-mile loop south of State Route 165 just below the Sandia Mountains foothills. After the confrontation, the resident notified the Forest Service.

“One of the biggest problems we have is people don’t check the rules before they go out,” said District Ranger Cid Morgan of the Cibola National Forest Sandia Ranger District. “You can drive on Forest Service roads in a street-legal vehicle. If it’s not street-legal, it’s illegal for them to be out there.”

While enforcement in what is known as the Bernalillo Research Natural Area can be spotty, a forest protection officer earlier this year cited two mountain bikers he found building a jump ramp, Morgan added. Both were cited for illegally constricting a trail and face fines up to $150 dollars if it’s their first offense, she said.

Penalties mount with subsequent offenses and can include confiscating bikes and vehicles.

A planning process that included hikers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and a representative of an off-road group led in 2008 to designating legal roads and closing the rest within the forest. Details of road access can be found on the Cibola website ( by clicking the link to “Cibola’s Recreation and Motor Vehicle Use Maps.”

USFS already has long-standing issues it’s trying to resolve within the 1,100-acre Bernalillo Research Natural Area. Informal parking areas have sprung up along the FR445 loop, and the interior is laced with user-created trails spreading across fragile soils, Morgan said.

“There is only about a mile of official trails,” she said. “Because of the soil out there, even foot traffic has to be on designated trails.”

The first project nearing approval is relocating sections of a nearby mountain bike trail that dip into the Sandia Mountain Wilderness where no vehicles are allowed. A larger planning process is beginning for the northern part of the Sandia Ranger District outside the wilderness to designate new trails, eliminate old ones, and deal with everything from invasive plants to soil and water projects including work on Las Huertas Creek.

Preliminary meetings are expected to be announced in March or April.

And beyond that is the big-picture Forest Plan Revision covering the four mountain ranger districts within the Cibola. Notice of that project was just published in the Federal Register, which officially begins the process.

Copper theft crime on the increase

—Sergeant Allen Mills, Criminal Investigations Sergeant, Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department

In the past few years, the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office has seen an increase in scrap metal theft and crimes related to precious metals. The industrialized world has experienced dramatic increases in scrap metal theft. Offenders frequently target areas of opportunity, such as abandoned buildings and homes in bank foreclosure. Foreclosed homes, as well as new construction sites, become inviting targets to metal thieves by giving out environmental cues that the property is unprotected. Offenders target copper piping and other metals from plumbing, telephone lines, and heating/air-conditioning systems. Occupied residences and businesses are also susceptible to being targeted.

Offenders with drug addictions can easily support their drug habits by selling stolen metal to scrap metal dealers for cash, creating an incentive for this type of crime.

Below are some tips provided by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries:

Keep garage doors closed and crawl spaces secured, preventing access to pipes and wires. Property and homeowners can enclose air conditioning units in locked wire cages and/or spray paint the interior copper tubing. For industrial size units, alarm products are available that can detect cuts in electricity and/or monitor changes in the pressure of the refrigerant. Clamped cages are available to protect catalytic converters. Remember, the higher a vehicle sits off the ground, the easier it is to access the catalytic converter. 

Contractors should keep construction materials in secured, fenced-in areas and consider hiring security, at least during the phase of construction involving installation of copper pipes and wiring. If possible, limit on-hand supplies to what will be needed in the short term. Products as simple and cheap as spray paint can be used to mark materials for identification.

Public utilities should consider resistance perimeter fencing and surveillance cameras. Company logos can be stamped or painted on materials for easier identification. Signage should be used to warn potential thieves of dangers of electricity and that materials have been marked for identification.

Other commercially available products such as intrusion alarms, video, engraving devices, and microdot technology can be used to thwart copper theft. By making theft more difficult and increasing the likelihood of detection, should a theft occur, property owners, communities, and law enforcement can lessen the instances and impact of metals theft.

Report all instances of copper or other metal thefts. This will allow law enforcement to create and disseminate a Metal Theft Alert and possibly recover the stolen items or identify the thieves

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