The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. announced last week that a woman arrested in December for an unrelated charge is now suspected of committing a spree of local auto burglaries that resulted in a few cases of identity theft.

Taken into custody on Dec. 18, the 35-year-old Jennifer Coltrin was arrested by detectives who found her staying in a mobile home on the 4100 block of State Street. Sheriff’s Dept. Spokesman Sgt. Alex Tipolt said detectives rummaging through Coltrin’s belongings found a host of items – many of which were reported stolen from car break-ins in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties during the months of November and December.

“Coltrin was found to be in possession of numerous stolen checks, wallets, purses, identification cards, credit cards, bank documents and other items,” Tipolt said.

In addition to these charges, Coltrin is accused of using financial and identity information taken from stolen purses and wallets to make fraudulent purchases throughout the Santa Barbara area.

Tipolt said the stolen goods came from more than a dozen auto burglaries that occurred in both Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. In most of the cases, the windows of the victim’s cars were smashed out and items removed, typically from cars parked at athletic clubs and parks.

The City of Santa Barbara normally sees between 15 and 20 “smash and grab” or “window smash” auto burglaries per month, according to the Santa Barbara Police Dept., and during the month of November – when Coltrin was allegedly most active – it saw that number spike to more than 40.

Isla Vista Foot Patrol Sgt. Cindy Galante said these so-called “smash and grab” burglaries are commonplace in the area.

“That’s why we tell everyone not to leave their iPod in plain view,” Galante said. “A lot of times a person will see an iPod or a computer case and just smash out the window.”

Galante also said that I.V. typically sees a spike in window smash burglaries during UCSB breaks, as many students fly home, leaving vulnerable vehicles behind.

A common denominator in many of these types of burglaries is that valuables are left in plain sight of would-be robbers, the sergeant said. Tipolt said in some cases, victims concealed their iPod, but left the telltale cord connected – a veritable yellow brick road for a thief to follow.

“The best advice would be to remove any valuables from the vehicle, even if it’s locked,” Tipolt said. “If anything is left in the vehicle, try to conceal it either in the glove box or center console.”

The case against Coltrin is ongoing, with a probate hearing scheduled for Friday, Feb. 8 at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. According to Sgt. Tipolt, investigations are still underway, and any persons with information are encouraged to contact the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept.

Both Coltrin’s attorney and the deputy district attorney handling the case were not available for comment.