Transients dig tunnel under bridge to stash stolen property

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Police found trash and stolen property at the transient camp. By Jennifer Thomas Police found trash and stolen property at the transient camp. By Jennifer Thomas
Police found trash and stolen property at the transient camp. By Jennifer Thomas Police found trash and stolen property at the transient camp. By Jennifer Thomas
Police found trash and stolen property at the transient camp. By Jennifer Thomas Police found trash and stolen property at the transient camp. By Jennifer Thomas
Police found trash and stolen property at the transient camp. By Jennifer Thomas Police found trash and stolen property at the transient camp. By Jennifer Thomas
Police found trash and stolen property at the transient camp. By Jennifer Thomas Police found trash and stolen property at the transient camp. By Jennifer Thomas

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Avondale police say a group of transients dug a tunnel beneath the Agua Fria Bridge and were using it to store stolen property.

Officer Michael Unger suspected that transients living in a shanty camp in the river bottom near El Mirage and Buckeye roads in Avondale were involved in wire, copper and property thefts at businesses in the area of Dysart Road. The stolen property was being sold at local recycling businesses as scrap metal.

During his investigation, Unger discovered the transients had dug a tunnel underneath the Agua Fria Bridge. They reportedly were living in the tunnel and storing stolen property inside.

Unger found trash and animal and human waste in the transient camp. He reported his findings to the Maricopa County Flood Control District.

An MSCO inmate cleanup crew was dispatched to the area and removed between 500 and 800 pounds of garbage and hazardous material.

Detective Reuben Gonzales with the Avondale Police Department said jewelry, electronics, bicycles and food items were impounded as possible stolen property.

The Arizona Department of Transportation was called in to fill the tunnel and ensure the safety of the bridge. Railroad ties have been placed to secure the area where the tunnel once was.

"This action by Officer Unger is just an example of how our Police Officers take the necessary proactive steps to help reduce the crime in the area," Chief Kevin Kotsur said in a news release. "Officer Unger went above and beyond simply making arrests in this case. He followed through by contacting the right people at MCSO, Maricopa County Flood Control and ADOT to ensure that the bridge was secure and property is being returned to the proper owners."