SANTA MARIA - Alert neighbors helped Santa Maria Police nab a suspect who they've been looking for in connection with a string of indecent exposures near local schools.
Police say last week they learned about a man exposing himself to Pioneer Valley High School students as they walked to campus in the morning.
Witnesses and victims reported seeing the man wearing a popular wrestling mask known in the movies as "nacho libre".
Police say they spent the following days waiting for the suspect to return to the area but with no luck.
Then Monday morning at about 7:30am SMPD say they got another call of a suspect in the same area exposing himself to students.
Police say after a short chase on foot, they arrested 30 year old Juan Mendoza holding a "nacho libre" mask.
Police say they has witness reports of a similarly described man exposing himself near El Camino Junior High School.
"He's looking at several counts of indecent exposure and corresponding several counts of annoying or molesting children", says SMPD Lt. Kim Graham.
Santa Maria Police say the apprehension of Mendoza is a good example of how a Neighborhood Watch program can be effective.
"That's how we were tipped off to Mr. Mendoza yesterday was a call from one of the residents who had been alerted prior that we had been looking for this subject", Lt. Graham says, "his alertness and prompt calling led to this guy being apprehended."
Santa Maria Police point out there are steeper fines, penalties and enhancements for crimes committed in a designated safe school zone, typically a 1500 yard perimeter around the school.
Police say they are looking for more witnesses and or victims of this indecent exposure suspect to come forward.
Thursday, May 23 2013 1:29 AM EDT2013-05-23 05:29:02 GMT
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