Hiking

Hike Bob: Trailhead Heist Turns Hiker Into Detective | Hike bob









Linda B. (she asked that we not use her full name) has scheduled a regular hike for the afternoon of Feb 16th. She parked her car and started down a trail in the Monument Preserve when, minutes later, she heard what sounded like glass breaking. Although she could still see her car, nothing seemed wrong. When she finished her hike shortly after, she discovered that she was the last victim of a burglary at a trailhead. Her purse, along with her driver’s license, mailbox key, credit cards and other items, was stolen. She says she hid the items under a blanket in the backseat and saw nothing when the window shattered because it was on the side of her car that was in front of her.

Since the reservation is in an unincorporated part of the county, she had to report it to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO), and when she called she was told that without witness, nor weapon or tool left by which to obtain fingerprints, a deputy would not be sent. But she could file a complaint online or by phone. Instead, she chose not to file a report right away and began her own detective work.

Linda discovered that her credit cards were being used at three nearby businesses within minutes of each other, with purchases totaling nearly $800. During her detective work, she also learned that all three companies had cameras that probably picked up who was using the credit cards, and in fact one company not only caught someone using the cards, but also caught a possible accomplice and his vehicle. All three stores told Linda they would only turn their videos over to law enforcement.

The next day she called EPSO to report the incident and tell them there might be a video of one or more of the perpetrators. According to Linda, however, nearly a week after calling to report the burglary, EPSO says they only have an assigned case number, but the deputy has yet to file a report.

EPSO’s public information officer, Lt. Deborah Mynatt, however, said the sheriff’s office was on the case.

Mynatt says there’s hope the store’s oversight could be used for a press release to “help catch these guys or girls.” Mynatt says based on his initial review of service calls, there doesn’t appear to have been a recent spate of trailhead break-ins. However, this can be misleading due to the way a service call is entered into the EPSO system.

For example, if a victim calls EPSO to report a crime, the first address provided is recorded in the file. So, if the victim initially gives their home address and not the location of the crime, that location may not show up in a search. The crime location can be entered later in the report, but it is not searchable and would require someone to review each report to compile a list of actual incident locations, Mynatt says.

Additionally, people’s reluctance to report vehicle break-ins, either because they feel the value of what was taken was low, they think nothing will be done, or they feel embarrassed because that they might have left an unlocked car, makes it harder to track crimes. “We’re asking citizens, even if it’s not a valuable item that’s taken, we want you to report it because it sets up patterns of crime,” Mynatt says. “This helps our Crime Intelligence Unit gather patterns of information so that we can deliver better messages to our community on how to prevent and keep their personal items safe.”

According to Mynatt, they want to hear from the victims, “even if nothing is taken, but you notice someone has broken into the vehicle or entered the vehicle and searched your glove box.”

As for the report: Mynatt says the deputy was on regular leave and the report was pending until he returned. She hopes it will be finished as soon as possible.

Linda says her loss, overall — the credit card companies covered the illegal charges, but she had to pay about $400 to replace the window — isn’t a big deal. She just hopes her own detective work can help catch the scammers.

Mynatt said thieves know all the “secrets” people use to hide valuables in their cars, and the best way to avoid becoming a victim is to not leave them in your car at all. Leave them at home, if possible. Also, lock your car and don’t leave your garage door opener in plain sight.

Be wise. Do good things. Don’t be a victim.