Police are searching for a man who stole credit and debit cards from a secure locker at the Durango Community Recreation Center and racked up about $3,500 in fraudulent charges.
The suspect, who had not been identified as of Tuesday, was caught on surveillance video at the rec center and at several businesses in town. The incident occurred between 5:50 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16. The victim was Pat Barrett of Durango.
Thefts in the rec center locker rooms have been a problem for years, and security improvements were introduced last fall. However, preventing the crimes has proved a difficult task.
In a phone interview this week, Barrett said he exercised for about an hour before returning to his locker. He noticed a different lock had been put on his locker, which confused him, he said. But within three minutes, he notified the rec center staff, and about 20 minutes later, police decided to cut the lock off. Barrett's wallet, keys, pants and gym bag were all stolen.
The suspect is believed to have entered the rec center with a pair of bolt cutters in a gym bag. After stealing the credit cards and other belongings, he placed a new lock on the locker.
Within a 1½-hour period, the suspect bought a $725 pair of Salomon skis from the Ski Barn, $900 worth of gift cards from various stores, $120 worth of malt scotch from Mac's Liquor, a $228 camera and 17 other items totaling $305 from Wal-Mart, according to police reports. He also completed several ATM withdrawals and asked for cash back at most stores. Barrett had his personal identification number written down on a piece of paper in his wallet.
"I was amazed at how quickly it all happened," Barrett said.
Cathy Metz, director of parks and recreation, said it is a new phenomenon for thieves to cut locks off lockers. However, last year there were at least 22 thefts at the rec center, including one in December in which a man removed a padlock from a man's locker and stole $1,400 in cash.
But short of examining everyone's personal belongings and placing cameras in the locker rooms, there is no foolproof way to prevent thefts.
Last fall, the city installed security cameras in common areas of the rec center, and the staff is doing more walk-throughs during peak times, Metz said.
Residents are urged to leave all valuables at home, said Capt. Micki Browning of the Durango Police Department. It is not uncommon for thieves to steal a set of keys from a locker and go through the parking lot until they find the vehicle, she said.
"While we certainly encourage people to lock their articles in the locker, this is a case that shows that is not always enough," Browning said.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call investigators at 375-4730 or CrimeStoppers at 247-1112.