CONCORD, Calif. - Two daycare vans stolen in the East Bay just days apart have been recovered. Police made an arrest Sunday thanks to an alert dispatcher.
Concord Police Dispatcher Amber Vonhofen drove into work Sunday morning when she saw something suspicious.
“As I was coming to the light I see this huge passenger van,” said Vonhofen. “I get behind and go 'hey that van looks familiar, that license plate looks familiar.'”
It turns out the van had been reported stolen from the Dianne Adair at Westwood Daycare Center on Friday. Vonhofen had previously entered the stolen van into the police computer system. When she spotted it on the road, she called it in and followed it --a safe distance behind--- to the Safeway parking lot down the street from the daycare center.
“I just had that little, we call it ,dispatcher Spidey sense,” said Vonhofen. “I had that Spidey sense. I just felt so bad for that poor daycare. I just really wanted to get him.”
Police ultimately arrested the suspect in the produce section of the Safeway store.
“She recognized the van and was able to act quickly and think quickly,” said Concord police Sgt. Kevin Halm.
“I think she's an angel to be honest,” said Debbie Trammel of Westwood Daycare Center. “She was very alert. I couldn't be more grateful.”
The van is now stored in a tow yard. Inside, you can see the ignition busted, the screwdriver used to start the car and other break-in tools sitting alongside a child's lunchbox.
This van is in much better condition than another van reported stolen on April 8 That van was later found dumped in a Walmart parking lot in Martinez last Wednesday, stripped of the seats. Surveillance video caught video of the culprits but they have not been arrested.
This time around, Vonhofen credits being at the right place at the right time.
“We don't just sit and answer phones. We are not just operators, we help people we save lives,” said Vonhofen. “It’s pretty cool and it's really rewarding yes, I got this person.
The daycare now plans to take extra precautions and have the two vans stored in a different facility. They hope to have them back in commission by the end of the month in time for field trips.
Police believe the two thefts may be connected and aren't identifying the suspect who was arrested Sunday, pending follow-up investigation.