Riverside Cops Capture `Snake Burglar’ Following Monthslong Search

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A repeat thief with multiple convictions and dubbed the “snake burglar” was apprehended while allegedly preparing to victimize another business, authorities said Friday.

Christopher Michael Jackson, 32, of Riverside was arrested Wednesday night and booked into the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning on suspicion of multiple counts of burglary. Jackson is being held on $100,000 bail.

Riverside police Chief Larry Gonzalez said during a news briefing Wednesday afternoon, just hours prior to the suspect’s arrest, that the “snake burglar” had been identified in a virtual one-man commercial burglary crime wave throughout the city. The chief cited the serial criminal activity as an example of a repeat offender benefiting from soft-on-crime policies and laws in California.

“Legislative changes over the past decade, including Assembly Bill 109, Prop 47 and Prop 57, have made it increasingly difficult to ensure the safety of our citizens, but that does not stop our tireless efforts to do so,” Gonzalez said Friday. “We must, as a community, advocate for ourselves and each other to pressure state legislators to make sound reasonable changes in these laws to protect our residents and businesses.”

“We don’t want more punishment, but we do want more safety — safety from being terrorized by habitual thieves feasting on us and on our justice system,” he said.

According to police, Jackson has been involved in more than 70 burglaries since July 2021.

“He has been arrested on numerous occasions and was recently ordered to serve six sentences of 16 months in jail after pleading guilty to 23 felonies,” according to a police statement. “However, orders pertaining to overcrowding in the jail system allowed him to only serve less than 10 days in jail.”

Detectives attached the moniker “snake burglar” to the convicted felon due to his penchant for crawling along the floors of businesses that he’s broken into so as to avoid motion detection alarm systems.

Police allege Jackson has been burglarizing locations since he was last released from custody in November.

About 10:15 p.m. Wednesday, a private security patrol service spotted him outside a closed store in the 3900 block of Tyler Street, peering inside the establishment and tampering with a window, according to police spokesman Officer Ryan Railsback.

He said that patrol officers were contacted immediately, and they apprehended Jackson walking away from the location.

“He was instantly recognized by the officers as our known serial burglar,” Railsback said.

The probationer was taken into custody without incident, based on seven outstanding felony arrest warrants.

Gonzalez, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin, Sheriff Chad Bianco and Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward joined for the briefing Wednesday to call for grassroots and other organized support to direct legislators’ attention to the need for modification or nullification of AB 109 and changes to remove provisions in Propositions 47 and 57, approved in 2014 and 2016, respectively, that allow many offenders to walk without serving time.

One of the chief complaints about AB 109 was the reclassification of crimes such as theft that enable repeat offenders to receive mandatory supervision in lieu of jail — basically, probation — or to serve prison sentences in county lock-ups, which are already overcrowded.

Bianco told City News Service that “we’re always at maximum capacity” in the county’s five detention facilities. That fact is what led to another serial thief, Timothy Bethell of Winchester, whose break-ins have cost businesses thousands of dollars in Riverside and Tulare counties, to leave a local jail after serving only three days in 2022, even though he was sentenced to three years. He went on to re-offend in Northern California.

Bethell’s early release was what’s known as a “fed kick,” because the county is under a federal court mandate to ensure all inmates have bed space. When space runs out, sheriff’s officials are required to release so- called “low level offenders” to make room for incoming detainees who need one of the 3,998 inmate beds available.

The main justification for AB 109, signed into law by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011, was to reduce prison overcrowding. But as Bianco, Gonzalez, Hestrin and Ward pointed out, the state is now in the process of shuttering penitentiaries or ending their leases to correctional space statewide.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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