Phoenix police arrested several people over the weekend accused of stealing purses, IDs and various other valuables from cars left at Phoenix trailheads.

Five individuals were arrested on May 31. They face burglary-related charges and one may face charges of auto theft.

Phoenix police officers and detectives have been following investigative leads on the case for weeks following a string of car burglaries at trailheads across the Phoenix-metro area. Suspects using stolen credit cards at retail, convenience stores and online were identified, said Officer James Holmes in a statement. Police were able to establish probable cause for three search warrants where either suspect’s and/or victim’s property was located.

“On May 31, Neighborhood Enforcement Team (NET) detectives and officers from our Desert Horizon, Mountain View and Cactus Park precincts teamed with the police Special Assignments Unit to execute the search warrants,” Holmes said. “The investigation has shown the suspects worked as a group, with James Bennett, 36, and possibly others, riding on their bicycles and breaking into cars parked near the trailheads. The suspects would then, either by themselves or with other co-conspirators, go quickly to local stores/businesses and ATM’s and use stolen cards obtained in the burglaries.”

Derek Byrski, 28, Barbara Wells, 28, and Tina Billings, 39, were identified by police as three co-conspirators.

“Over 25 women’s purses were recovered during the execution of the warrants,” Holmes said. “Other items, such as receipts tied to stolen credit cards and burglary tools including walkie-talkies, gloves, binoculars, were also discovered. Police also found heroin and marijuana.”

Stephen Ross, 43, was also arrested. Police say he was found in a car that had been rented from a car rental business with a credit card that had been stolen in one of the burglaries. The car had not been returned to the business and was reported as stolen.

Phoenix police hope these arrests will remind residents not to leave valuables in their cars.

“As inconvenient as it may be, our citizens should consider what it is they really need to have in their possession while going for a hike,” Holmes said. “Purses, laptop computers, credit and Social Security cards, briefcases, wallets and the like should be left at home or work, not in the car. We do not want our citizens to become the victim of this.”

Phoenix Police are asking anyone with information concerning these burglaries to call Crime Stop at (602) 262-6151 or Silent Witness at (480) W-I-T-N-E-S-S.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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