Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

Zachariah Joseph Powell Booking Photo | Humboldt County Correctional Facility

On the morning of Sept. 24, 2023, Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies were contacted by two victims reporting vehicle burglaries.

One of the victims, whose vehicle was broken into in the Valley West area of Arcata, told deputies that he had tracked his stolen airpods to a location in McKinleyville. Deputies responded to the location and learned from witnesses that a teal truck had reportedly been parked in the area with unknown males looking through backpacks. The truck left prior to deputies’ arrival. While conducting their investigation, deputies were contacted by the second victim who reported the theft of two bank cards from their vehicle. The victim was alerted to the theft after receiving a notification from their bank regarding a purchase at a local gas station. Surveillance footage obtained from the gas station depicted a male suspect exit a teal pickup truck and utilize the stolen card to purchase items from the business.

Deputies patrolled the McKinleyville area and located the truck parked in front of a residence on the 1900 block of Elm Street. At the residence deputies contacted multiple people, including the suspect seen on the surveillance footage. The suspect, who initially provided deputies with a false name, was identified as 30-year-old Zachariah Joseph Powell. Powell was found to be on probation with a search clause.

During a search of Powell and his belongings in the residence, deputies located drug paraphernalia, numerous driver’s licenses, the airpods and other items from the Valley West burglary. Additionally, in the truck bed, deputies located a subwoofer that had been reported stolen to the Arcata Police Department during another recent vehicle burglary.

Powell was arrested and booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on charges of possession of stolen property (PC 496(a)), false identification to a peace officer (PC 148.9(a)), petty theft (PC 488), theft of property (PC 484(a)), possession of a controlled substance paraphernalia (HS 11364) and violation of probation (PC 1203.2(a)), in addition to warrant charges for shoplifting (PC 459.5).

Vehicle burglary is a crime of opportunity. An offender makes a decision to break into a vehicle based on a perception that there are items of value inside the vehicle, which makes the potential payoff worth the risk. A vehicle burglary can be completed in a minute or less, leaving very little investigative clues behind. Because this type of burglary is a crime of opportunity, there are steps you can take to prevent this crime from occurring.

  1. Keep the interior of your vehicle “showroom” clean. Always remove valuables from inside your vehicle. The Sheriff’s Office commonly receives reports of purses, bags, briefcases and wallets being stolen from vehicles. We have even received reports of thieves breaking in to steal a pair of sunglasses. Even if you do not believe the item is of value, remove it from plain site.
  2. Be cautious when storing valuables in your trunk. If your vehicle is equipped with a trunk release button on the inside, thieves can easily access your vehicle’s trunk space. While “hiding” items in your trunk may reduce the chance for your vehicle to be a target, the action will not completely protect you from theft.
  3. Remove garage door openers, key cards, and house, work or car keys from your vehicle.
  4. Always lock your vehicle, even if you are home. In public places, it may be tempting to leave your vehicle windows down to avoid vandalism. However, this puts you at even more risk, leaving vehicle registration and insurance information accessible to anyone nearby and increasing your chances of falling victim to identity theft, burglaries at your home and vehicle theft.

To report a vehicle burglary or related criminal activity, contact the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line at 707-445-7251.