Theft is top crime in Eagle County |

Theft is top crime in Eagle County

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyOne of five surveillance cameras in the Jewelry of the West store in Vail help owner Bob Akkad maintain security in his small business.

VAIL, Colorado ” Patty Hernandez has four surveillance cameras in her store, but those cameras were not working when a $21,500 sable coat was stolen in November.

That coat was stolen when three well-dressed men and two women came into the Alaska Fur Gallery in Vail Village, Hernandez said.

A salesman was busy helping the men while one of the women put the coat under her jacket and walked out with it. The coat hanger later was found in another jacket, Hernandez said.

“They’re working now, believe me,” Hernandez, a corporate officer for the store, said about her surveillance cameras.

Theft is the most common reported crime in Eagle County, according to police statistics, and employees and owners of businesses say they look for suspicious activity and use electronics to thwart it.

In Vail, 60 businesses reported thefts in the first half of 2007, the most recent period statistics are available. The highest number of thefts occur Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 2 and 4 p.m., according to the Vail Police Department.

Vail Electronics in Avon has several gadgets to help prevent crime in businesses, said the store’s owner, Don Anderson.

“There’s a lot on the commercial side,” Anderson said. “Commercial is cool.”

Stickers with bar codes on them prevent people from parking where they’re not supposed to, he said.

In some gated parking lots, an owner of a parking pass can slide it through an electronic scanner several times to let several of their friends’ cars in, he said.

Instead, Anderson’s sticker can be put on a car’s windshield and a sensor at the gate to the parking lot reads its bar code. If the sticker is removed from the glass, the bar code cannot be read because the ink gets smeared, he said.

“That’s been quite a good product to keep people out of places,” he said.

Anderson also sells a button that an employee can press in case of a robbery. It sends an emergency signal with the location of the business to police.

“You don’t want to scare the intruder or freak him out I guess, which makes total sense,” Anderson said.

Global Positioning System trackers let business owners track movements of employees on computers to make sure a delivery driver, for instance, is using his time efficiently. Those trackers often are installed in glove boxes in vehicles, Anderson said.

“If he’s off at Taco Bell, he’s not getting paid,” he said.

Every product at Billabong Vail has electronic tags that set off an alarm if someone tries to walk out the door with something, district manager Jason Klein said.

Employees also ask every customer who uses a credit card for identification. If a customer doesn’t show it, employees don’t sell them anything. That protects the store from losing money and people whose credit cards may have been stolen, Klein said.

“Credit card fraud is huge right now in Colorado,” he said.

Adel Akkad has never had anything stolen from his father’s store, Jewels of the West, after more than a decade in the Vail Village.

The jewelry store has hundreds of thousands of dollars in diamonds, crystals, geodes, fossils and blue topazes, said Akkad, sales manager.

The most expensive jewelry is locked in cases and the store has surveillance cameras at the entrance, he said.

“It’s not trying to be big brother,” he said.

The store is also small, so Akkad can watch the whole place without extra employees, he said.

Hernandez looks for possible “theft rings,” or groups of people who work together to steal products.

One person will try to distract a salesperson while another person ” sometimes carrying a large bag ” looks at products in the store, she said. Another person might be a lookout.

Hernandez has a salesperson help the supposedly interested customer while she follows the person who’s looking around the store. That makes people uncomfortable, and they eventually leave, she said.

“You just follow them and you’re on them like a shadow,” she said.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or

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