by Ian Parkinson
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff 

The calendar has turned to December. To quote a line from a song, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the season for giving. And in some cases, taking. What I mean by that is we seem to get an increase in the number of thefts this time of year. Thefts of packages from cars. Stolen items from front porches. It steals the holiday spirit from what should be a joyous time. But I want to tell you about one case recently that involved taking but also giving back. 

It all started when the Sheriff’s Office received a report recently of vandalism and theft from the Santa Margarita Ranch in North County. A Deputy responded and discovered the thief made off with some interesting items. Multiple pieces of a steam locomotive train made of solid bronze were stolen. There was a question on a lot of people’s minds when they first heard about this theft. Were these pieces part of the famous train cars that run on the ranch and were acquired from Disneyland? Turns out, no. But they were valuable in their own right. It seems these train pieces were extremely rare, with only eight sets of them made. One set is in New York, the other seven are in California, including the one set that was taken from Santa Margarita Ranch. The value of the train pieces was estimated at $10,000. In addition, two generators, drones, and other equipment were taken with an estimated value of approximately $20,000. Altogether, that’s $30,000 in stolen goods. Not an insignificant amount. 

Deputies from our North Station, along with members of our Rural Crimes Unit, began working on the investigation. They obtained evidence which led Deputies to a suspect in rural Paso Robles. About a week later, they served a search warrant at the home of the suspect. And while Deputies found items at the home which were believed to be stolen, none were related to this case. It was quite a disappointment. But not for long. In a trash can at the house, thrown away and apparently forgotten, Deputies found receipts for recycling centers in Santa Maria and Nevada. So, Deputies contacted those recycling centers, and guess what they found? That’s right, most of the train parts, approximately 800 pounds of bronze, were discovered at the Santa Maria recycling center. Several other stolen items were discovered at the recycling center in Nevada. Deputies got to the recycling centers just in time. Some of the parts were scheduled to be recycled soon. A suspect was arrested and taken to county jail. In all, approximately $20,000 in stolen property was recovered and returned to the rightful owners. 


Stories like this don’t typically make it into the media. Usually, it’s the big investigations that get all the coverage. But I wanted to share this story with you because I wanted to showcase the great work our Deputies do, day in and day out, to protect you and your property. A good story to end the year. And a great way for me to wrap up another year of informing you about all the many happenings at the Sheriff’s Office. And with that, let me just add as a personal note, from everyone here at the Sheriff’s Office, may your holidays be safe and filled with peace, health, and much happiness. 

The original column first ran in the December issue of Central Coast Journal.