Breckenridge ski and snowboard theft numbers see uptick in 2016
Ski and snowboard theft cases with the Breckenridge Police Department increased in 2016 after two straight years of decline. A total of 26 skis and snowboards were reported stolen, compared with 16 the previous year and 25 in 2014.
Those numbers are well down from a high-water mark in 2013, when 75 boards and skis were reported stolen in Breckenridge. That was largely the work of a single perpetrator, whom law enforcement officials described as a “serial thief” who stole dozens of boards and skis and sold them online.
That man pleaded guilty to a deferred sentence in Dec. 2014 and agreed to pay $100,000 in restitution, District Attorney Bruce Brown said. The DA’s office sent hundreds of letters to people it believed were victims and offered to compensate them through those funds, but barely any responded, Brown said.
His office has since set up a snow sport equipment theft restitution fund, and people who have had gear stolen in any of the four counties in Colorado’s Fifth Judicial District can apply for compensation through it.
Since most thefts at Breckenridge Ski Resort occur at the base area, which is within the town limits, Breckenridge police handle those cases. Other ski areas in the county fall under the jurisdiction of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, which didn’t have total case numbers readily available.
“The early season is when we tend to see the most reports,” said Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons. “When it’s the ‘white ribbon of death’ and everyone is skiing the same two runs, all of the gear is in one area, and all of that craziness creates an opportunity for people to steal stuff.”
Law enforcement officials and ski area representatives said that reported thefts often turn out to be honest mistakes, particularly with rental skis that look the same.
None of the ski areas contacted for this article were able to provide total numbers of missing ski reports, so the statistics from the Breckenridge police only represent the number of people who end up filing reports. The BPD numbers also include ski thefts that didn’t occur on-mountain.
Ski area representatives said that in cases where theft appears to be likely, their staff will recommend that people contact local law enforcement.
“We usually take down the person’s information and a description of their snowboard or skis and have employees look around,” Leigh Hierholzer, a spokeswoman for Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, said. “Sometimes people will pick up a board by mistake then realize it later and put it down somewhere.”
She said that A-Basin installed a new security system with several cameras last year and plans on adding more throughout the season. When fully installed, she said, the system will be able to record all of the ski racks in the base area.
Loveland Ski Area has some cameras as well, although they don’t provide full coverage of the ski racks and base area, spokesman John Sellers said.
“We have worked with law enforcement to recover stolen property,” he said. “But it has more often been the result of information provided by witnesses than footage from our cameras.”
“When they do have some video, we’ll take a look at that,” said Breckenridge police chief Dennis McLaughlin. “Sometimes you can tell it’s an honest mistake, but if someone walks up and picks up skis or a snowboard without boots on, that can be a clear indicator.”
Police said they are often able to solve cases by monitoring Craigslist and Ebay, websites where thieves typically go to sell stolen gear. They also encourage people to write down serial numbers and add some sort of identifying features to their skis and boards to help police confirm if they find a match.
Tempers are understandably high in people who have had their day on the slopes cut short by stolen skis, but police caution against resorting to social media witch-hunts, even if they can in rare cases bring results.
“We do encourage people to report to law enforcement and not take matters into their own hands,” said FitzSimons. “Social media is not the place to solve these cases.”