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Thieves hit local rec centers' locker rooms

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By Corinne Westeman

Authorities are investigating a series of locker thefts at Evergreen's Buchanan Recreation Center and South Jeffco's Ridge Rec Center in the past week.

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Four victims had items stolen from their lockers at Buchanan — one on July 5 and three on July 7. Two victims' lockers were also raided on July 5 at Ridge.

The Jeffco Sheriff's Office believes the incidents on July 5 are connected because the same male suspect appears to have visited both locations.

July 5 incidents

According to the JCSO, the July 5 suspect entered Buchanan wearing a gray long-sleeve shirt with black sleeves, gray plaid shorts and black flip flops. He had stubble on his face, tattoos on his calves and was carrying a black gym bag. When he left the center, he was wearing a light gray long-sleeve shirt, tan shorts and black flip flops.

According to the Sheriff's Office, a male patron had left a lock on his locker Thursday between 8:45 a.m. and 10 a.m.

During that timeframe, $250 worth of clothing and other items were stolen, including a set of car keys. The suspect later used the keys to steal approximately $1,200 worth of valuables from the patron's vehicle, and then tried to use stolen credit cards at local stores.

"Thieves go for the path of least resistance. … It's rare that a lock is broken," Jeffco Sheriff's Office spokesman Mark Techmeyer said. "We don't know how else he could've gotten the lock off outside of cutting it."

According to JCSO, the suspect in the July 5 incident is also suspected of stealing from two patrons' lockers between 6 and 8 p.m. that same day at the Ridge Rec Center off South Ward Road in South Jeffco.

The first Ridge Rec Center patron — a woman — had a locked locker, from which a wallet and cell phone were stolen. Credit cards were used at local stores.

The second patron was a man who had an unlocked locker, from which a wallet and car keys were stolen. Nothing was stolen from the vehicle.

The male suspect at the Ridge Rec Center is described as having worn the same plaid shorts, same black hat and carried the same black gym bag as the Buchanan suspect. He also has tattoos on the back of his calves, and it appears he changed clothes at the Ridge Rec Center.

He is described as being a white or Hispanic male between 5-foot-4 and 5-foot-8-inches tall, weighing between 180 and 225 pounds and in either in his late 20s or early 30s.

A female suspect is also believed to have stolen things at Ridge Rec Center. She is described as having long, dark hair when she entered the facility but later left with different colored hair and different clothing. She is described as being white, between 5-foot-4 and 5-foot-6-inches tall, weighing between 120-150 pounds and in her mid- to late-20s.

July 7 thefts
According to Techmeyer and JCSO spokeswoman Jenny Fulton, three patrons at Buchanan Recreation Center had items stolen from unlocked lockers on Saturday afternoon. The victims reported having cell phones, medication, car keys and wallets with credit cards stolen, totaling more than $800 in value.

Two of the patrons were male, and the other was female. The stolen credit cards were used at local stores.

Fulton stated investigators are working to acquire surveillance footage and determine whether the July 7 thefts are connected to the July 5 thefts at Buchanan and Ridge. However, investigators are looking for both a male suspect and a female suspect in connection with the July 7 thefts.

"We want people to make sure they lock up their stuff," Techmeyer said.

Increasing security
Ellen O'Connor, executive director for the Evergreen Park & Recreation District, confirmed that staff members are considering putting security cameras on the outside of the Buchanan Rec Center. Currently, there are none.

She noted that the district's 2018 budget includes $26,500 for security upgrades across the district, not only Buchanan, with some going into effect in August.

"But cameras are only as good as the what (areas) they can cover," she said. " ... Security cameras help, but they're not a complete safety net, so to speak."

She strongly encouraged patrons to lock their lockers and be vigilant for thefts or other suspicious activity.

Anyone with information on these thefts is asked to call the Jeffco Sheriff's Office at 303-271-5612.
 
Contact reporter Corinne Westeman at 303-350-1043 or cwesteman@evergreenco.com, and follow her on Twitter @cwesteman.