REDLANDS – A volunteer air support unit helped police track down two shoplifting suspects when patrol officers were unavailable Wednesday.
Redlands police spokesman Carl Baker said Air 10, which is a Cessna 172 airplane, was quickly over the scene at Redlands Citrus Plaza to help an arriving patrol car locate the suspects.
Alfredo Sanchez Cedano, 43, and his son, Alfredo Sanchez, 20, were arrested after police stopped their car at gunpoint.
Police received a call at 5:48 p.m. Wednesday from Kohl’s, a department store in the Citrus Plaza on the 27000 block of West Lugonia Avenue. A loss prevention security officer was chasing one of the suspects across the parking lot.
“No officers were available,” said Redlands police Chief Jim Bueermann.
Three minutes after the Kohl’s call was made, Air 10 was on the scene, said Baker, adding, “They … heard the call from dispatch and responded.”
Baker said the store employee lost sight of the suspect, but the Air 10 unit arrived overhead and located the car, a white Acura two-door. A patrol car was arriving as Cedano got into the car.
Police stopped the vehicle on Alabama Street near the onramp to Interstate 10 and arrested both men. Once the vehicle was searched, police located additional stolen property.
“Without the plane, we would not have apprehended the suspects,” said Buerrmann.
“It was instrumental in those two shoplifting arrests,” Baker added.
It was yet another example, he said, of how valuable the volunteer air-support unit is to Redlands police. The air support unit has been credited with tracking down at least a dozen suspects of various crimes, police say.
Last August, the Air 10 unit tracked a motorcycle thief from Redlands to Rialto, a city located 10 miles west. Rialto police then uncovered a motorcycle chop shop operation, which dealt in stolen parts.
This year, Air 10 has assisted on 21 felony arrests and 18 misdemeanor arrests; in 2010, there were 65 assisted felony arrests and 41 misdemeanor arrests, according to Redlands police records.
The plane is based at Redlands Airport, conducting routine scheduled patrols daily.